New Law Brings More Bodies to Three Cemetery Districts

The Great Recession has hastened the death of any number of businesses and institutions:

Cemeteries are no exception.

Over the objections of the Cemetery and Mortuary Association, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation July 9 allowing three cemetery districts – two in Shasta County, one in Solano – to bury up to 40 non-residents of each district each year, up to maximum of 400, as a way to raise revenue.

As explained by the bill’s author – Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a Butte Republican – the Anderson Cemetery District and the Cottonwood Cemetery District are victims of competition.

While people do continue to die in Shasta County, the state has cut into the cemetery districts’ revenues by opening the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in 2005.

The veterans’ cemetery, at whose dedication LaMalfa spoke, has reduced the number of internments at the Anderson and Cottonwood cemeteries, “creating significant fiscal challenges,” says the Senate floor analysis of LaMalfa’s bill, SB 1131.

Similarly, the Silveyville Cemetery District in Solano County, which operates the Dixon, Binghamton and Tremont cemeteries, has been forced to dig up new business because the federal government opened the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in 2006, less than 15 miles from all three of the district’s cemeteries.

The cemetery and mortuary association complained the bill cut into their action by “encourag(ing) municipalities to compete with private companies for business in a manner that is both unnecessary and unfair.”

Measures like LaMalfa’s are necessary because California’s 253 public cemetery districts must limit interments – either in the ground or a columbarium — to persons who resided in the district, persons who used to live in the district but acquired interment rights before they left, persons who pay property taxes within the district and persons who formerly paid property taxes in the cemetery district but acquired burial rights while paying those property taxes.

Family members of those persons are also eligible.

Without special dispensation, non-residents of the district must seek burial elsewhere.

Districts finance their operations by selling internment rights and charging for services as well as receiving slivers of local pretty tax revenue.

The Democratic governor is no virgin on this issue.

Nearly one year ago, he signed legislation allowing the Davis Cemetery District to bury up to 500 persons who aren’t residents of the district at its 820 Pole Line Road cemetery.

In that case, the bill’s author  — Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, a Davis Democrat — said the change in law was needed because the Jewish section of the cemetery was nearly full.

Yolo County’s only synagogue bought a second round of plots but without a special exemption some members of the congregation who don’t live in the cemetery district couldn’t be buried there.

In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill by Assemblyman Kevin Jefferies, a Riverside Republican, which created a comparable exemption for the Elsinore Valley Cemetery District.



1 Comment »

  1. More Bodies?
    I was hoping this about more cool ghost towns in the Eastern Sierra.

    Comment by Michael Jarvis — 7.09.2012 @ 7:03 pm

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