From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Dead Tuesday.

In Death on 17 February 2009 at 1:05 pm

You know it’s a slow day at the legislature when the most interesting bills to come before committee deal primarily with dead people.

In an apparent attempt to rival the presidential line of succession for complexity, the House Health Committee approved a bill to set the order of people who have the right to dispose of a dead person’s corpse. If the spouse can’t be found then the child gets the responsibility; if there’s no child, then the parent takes over; etc. Pets appear to have no rights under the statute.

The measure was brought at the behest of a group of funeral directors, who are apparently uncomfortable dealing with bodies when no one comes to claim them. The bill allows funeral directors to dispose of corpses without penalty if they make a good-faith effort to find relatives. It also establishes a system in which circuit courts settle family disputes over control of remains. Funeral directors would be able to collect fees from the family for preserving the corpse during the adjudication process.

Rep. Gene Shelby pointed out that the line of succession doesn’t include a live-in partner who was not married to the deceased. The objection was no obstacle to the bill’s passage.

The House Judiciary Committee also approved a dead-guy bill today. Actually, this one’s more about dead presidents than dead people. It extends the time during which a living person can level a claim against an estate to six months after the passing of the deceased.

In very tangentially related news, Rep. Steve Harrelson reports that a bill allowing guns in parking lots will not be attempted this session after all. Too bad for us journalists — even the New York Times got in on the latest action. I guess the guns in church bill really took the wind out of the sponsor’s sails.


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