Proposed bill aims to improve cemetery regulations - News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Proposed bill aims to improve cemetery regulations

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George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens. Source: WBRC video George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens. Source: WBRC video
Residents attend the latest town hall meeting. Source: Vanessa Araiza/WBRC Residents attend the latest town hall meeting. Source: Vanessa Araiza/WBRC

The State Department of Insurance hopes to ensure better consumer protection by drafting a bill aimed at strengthening the existing cemetery law.

State Rep. Juandalyn Givan discussed the bill with FOX6 News investigative reporter Ronda Robinson.

"This legislation says to the public, to the world that anyone who violates this law will be dealt with," Givan said.

A similar bill died in the senate last year, but Givan says the sudden closing of George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens in Birmingham led to many questions about the way cemeteries handle pre-need services and merchandise.

"Death is a very sensitive issue for individuals," Givan said. "It's something that will eventually impact anyone and I think that's why the Governor's Office is involved, the [Alabama] attorney general's office is investigating the matter. It brings awareness to the problem. It shines a spotlight on something that needed to be unmasked anyway."

Givan tells FOX6 News that the owner of Carver Memorial never applied for a Certificate of Authority for pre-need sales, which is required by the state.

According to the Department of Insurance, the current law is vague when it comes to penalties for non-certificate holders.

The proposed bill offers to clear things up by being very specific about the violations, increasing penalties from misdemeanors to felonies, granting authority to the Department of Insurance to enforce the law and requiring quarterly reports of all pre-need and trust activity.

Many Carver Memorial customers who are still experiencing pain and uncertainty over the sudden closing hope that a tougher law will make sure no one else has to suffer in the same way.

Givan is also held another town hall meeting Thursday at Jackson-Olin High School. The focus of this meeting was on the importance of having documentation and copies of documents that prove residents have loved ones buried at Carver Memorial Gardens and that they've paid for their plots.

Officials also shared maps to show people where plots are supposed to be located.

Thursday was Gloria Walker's first time at a town meeting regarding the future of the cemetery. She recently purchased a plot for her father but she doesn't know where it lies in the cemetery.

"He already has the certificate. I don't know where the space is at," said Walker.

Part of Thursday's town hall meeting was to address questions like Walker's. Maps of the cemetery were brought in for people who had that very question.

"We want to just give them an update as to what's taking place with regards to the bankruptcy in particular," said Rep. Juandalynn Givan.

Givan has been fielding questions and working with the attorney general's office when it comes to the cemetery. She said there are four potential buyers interested in the property.

"We hope within a few weeks that we'll have some good news that someone will become a new owner of the cemetery and it will be open hopefully before spring sometime," said Givan.

Gloria Davis hopes that holds true. She buried her brother in the cemetery in April and in June purchased a plot next two him.

"It's been very trying. We can't even put a headstone on him," Davis said.

But what's worse for people like Davis is the uncertainty that lies ahead.

"Just not knowing that's been the biggest burden. Not knowing, not sure as to what the outcome is going to be. If they will open it back up or if we've just lost our money," said Davis.

Rep. Givan plans to hold monthly town hall meetings until a deal is made and the cemetery has new ownership.

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