Assembly OKs Notification Bill for Cemeteries

Times Staff Writer

Legislation that would require cemeteries to notify surviving families and plot owners of any change in land-use passed the Assembly on Thursday and was sent to the Senate.

The measure was approved by a 42-34 vote, one more than the simple majority needed of the 80 seats.

Authored by Assemblywoman Marian LaFollette (R-Northridge), the bill was prompted by Leon Furgatch of Granada Hills, whose mother had been buried at Mount Olive Memorial Cemetery in East Los Angeles. Furgatch was dismayed to learn that he was not notified in 1985 that part of the cemetery had been sold as the site of a warehouse.

Furgatch and others who had relatives buried at Mount Olive complained to the state Cemetery Board about the lack of notification. They were told that the board had no jurisdiction because it does not regulate religious cemeteries. Furgatch then contacted his assemblywoman, LaFollette, who agreed to sponsor the bill.

The bill would require cemeteries to notify families of the deceased and owners of plots--if they previously had requested the notices--of any prospective change in use of the cemetery land.

The initial 34-28 vote opposed the bill. But by the end of the day's session, LaFollette had rounded up enough votes for the measure to pass.

Floor debate was fairly brief, and at one point humorously sarcastic. Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Hawthorne) strongly opposed the bill, declaring, "This is more government intrusion in our lives--even after we're dead!"

But LaFollette's consultant, Janeece Glenn, later said: "This is a very real problem that exists. We're trying to take care of it as simply as we can without putting too much burden on local cemeteries. It's not a complicated bill. It's not requiring any more than current law, except for the extra notification."

The measure is opposed by the Interment Assn. of California and the state Cemetery Board, on the grounds that it would impose an unnecessary burden on local agencies and cemetery owners.

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