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Funeral escort law may be overhauled

Posted: 7:52 PM, Feb 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-20 15:45:33Z

PHOENIX, AZ — Arizona lawmakers are considering a bill that would standardize how funeral escort companies operate.

In 2018, Let Joe Know exposed concerns of some in the industry that the public was being put at risk.

A company shared video highlighting potentially dangerous maneuvers that other funeral escort drivers were performing on Valley roads.

"We concerned for our industry. We're concerned that somebody's going to get killed or very badly hurt," said Helene Bergeron with escort company Phoenix Metro Traffic.

Right now, state law calls for sheriffs departments to oversee escort company certification and training.

But Let Joe Know found some, like Maricopa County, aren't doing it.

House Bill 2694 would move oversight from sheriffs offices to the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, eliminate escort status as "authorized emergency" vehicles, and require commercial liability insurance in case of accidents.

Funeral escort business owner Brian Hawkins helped in drafting the bill and says the changes are needed for public safety.

"These are not regulations, this is protection. This should be the basic bottom-line protection for everyone," he says.

He is especially concerned with making sure escorts are properly insured.

"(Right now) you can literally make your personal vehicle an authorized emergency vehicle with no proof of commercial insurance," Hawkins says.

The bi-partisan bill is sponsored by Rep. Noel Campbell (R)-Prescott.

Co-sponsor Rep. Isela Blanc (D)-Tempe says the current law needs an overhaul.

"We are making sure everyone is in compliance, and we are doing it in a way that will ensure public safety," she says.

But opponents are concerned about the costs. In addition to commercial insurance, the bill would require that those performing escorts pay an annual licensing fee.

American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education, known as ABATE of Arizona, opposes the bill.

They are a group of motorcyclists who volunteer to escort for military funerals and deployments.

"How much is the fee going to be? It's opened ended," says ABATE spokesman Michael Infanzon.

He says the bill doesn't take into account the price groups like his will have to pay for several members who participate in escorts. He also says it doesn't specify how much insurance would be required and what the annual fees would be.

"Two, five, ten thousand dollars a year for your organization--a volunteer organization can't really do that," he says.

Representative Blanc says the bill allows insurance limits and fees to be determined by the Funeral Board.

The House Transportation Committee will discuss the bill in House Hearing Room 3 on Wednesday February 20 at 2 p.m.

You can find your lawmaker and let them know what you think here .

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