Food at funeral homes has long been against the law in Pennsylvania, but no longer. You may be served shrimp or sandwiches at your next viewing.
It is one of many changes to the way funeral directors do business in Pennsylvania, but not because state lawmakers buried old rules and regulations; a federal judge did.
Federal judge John Jones threw dirt on the state group that oversees funeral directors and much of the law they've been following for 50 years, calling it "a law that is so outdated and patently unconstitutional in so many ways, it's as embarrassing as it is unconscionable."
Jones threw out a requirement that only licensed funeral directors can own funeral homes and he will now allow food to be served at viewings.
The state is appealing, so currently the industry is in a bit of legal limbo until the ruling is sorted out in the courts.
"We respect his decision, but we disagree with it," Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman said. "We believe funeral director law is constitutional."
But Jones clearly doesn't respect the state board, saying members "should be ashamed of themselves."
"We have a judge legislating from the bench for the state of Pennsylvania," said John Eirkson, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association. "I find it unusual that a federal judge would be editorializing an opinion as far as he's gone here."
But some local funeral directors support the judge. Doug Boyer of Perry County likes that he's no longer required to have a licensed supervisor.
"It cost me $40,000 a year that I didn't really need," Boyer said.
Random, unannounced inspections of funeral homes have been eliminated. Boyer said his outdoor sign was once written up.
"I was cited one time for having an eighth of an inch too small of a letter, ridiculous stuff," he said.
In this new normal, funeral directors have questions but say the state board isn't answering them. Phone calls aren't returned. The website's been neglected.
"The latest update on rules and regulations is 1991, most of them are continued from 1977," said Mike Shalonis of the Shalonis Funeral Home. "The fee schedule still says we pay $180 for a license we've been paying over $300 the last couple years."
Tuesday, May 21 2013 11:56 PM EDT2013-05-22 03:56:12 GMT
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