Last week, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed into law 2019 Wisconsin Act 137 which will result in changes to the eligibility requirements for obtaining a funeral director license in Wisconsin. The legislation adopted to create this law change included amendment language which WFDA worked to add to the bill to require newly licensed funeral directors to complete continuing education in coursework in subject matters which will be useful to prepare new licensees to practice as funeral directors.
Under the new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2020, the academic requirements for a funeral director license are being changed from two years of college instruction in a course of study approved by the Funeral Directors Examining Board to 24 college semester credits in similarly approved coursework.
Additionally, the new law eliminates the requirement for completion of a 16-hour certification class prior to the completion of mortuary school. The existing apprenticeship requirement is retained, however applicants for a funeral director apprenticeship could either complete the 16-hour certification class or mortuary school. The previous requirement to complete the 16-hour certification class after completing mortuary school has been eliminated.
Finally, the new law will require newly licensed funeral directors to obtain four credit hours of continuing education in subject matters which the Funeral Directors Examining Board determines are useful to prepare a new licensee to practice as a funeral director. This coursework would need to be completed prior to the first license renewal date after the initial license was granted.
The legislation which resulted in the creation of Act 137 originated with school officials at the Milwaukee Area Technical College mortuary program and was backed by a number of Wisconsin funeral homes. The bill’s authors and supporters saw Wisconsin’s prerequisite for two-years of college coursework to be unnecessarily burdensome relative to most other state requirements. MATC officials believe a two-year Associate's degree program will be attractive to prospective funeral director licensees who previously would need to obtain the additional year of college credits required in Wisconsin.
When the legislation began circulating in the state Capitol, the WFDA Board of Directors took a position in opposition to the bill as initially drafted. The opinion of Board members was that as an association, the WFDA was open to considering modifications to the current educational requirements for licensees as long as there remained in place a sufficiently robust foundation of college level coursework. The proposed elimination of a certain number of elective credits could be enhanced in the bill by requirements for the Funeral Directors Examining Board to be more specific regarding the content of the remaining college course requirements.
As the legislative process continued, hearings before committees in both statehouses resulted in many hours of diverse testimony offered by supporters and opponents of the licensure bills while concurrent lobbying efforts for and against the legislation intensified in the halls of the Capitol.
Eventually, key legislative leaders convened a meeting of stakeholders in an effort to bridge the differences of opinions on the legislation. In that meeting WFDA’s suggestion was to agree to elimination of elective college prerequisites and replace a portion of that coursework with specific classes focused on preparing new funeral directors for the diverse demands of the profession in today’s world. Suggestions for topics for this coursework included insurance, celebrant training, mass fatalities and incidents, hospitality, crematory operation and funeral arranging.
After further discussions the bill’s authors agreed to seek an amendment to the legislation which would require a newly licensed funeral director to complete at least four credit hours of coursework in areas that the Funeral Directors Examining Board determines prepare a new licensee for practice as a funeral director. With this amendment, the WFDA notified legislators that it was withdrawing its opposition to the legislation and the modified bill moved quickly out of both committees and passed the State Assembly and Senate with no opposition.
The Funeral Directors Examining Board will now have the responsibility to promulgate an administrative rule to specify the coursework for new funeral director licensees which it determines will best prepare them for practicing in the profession in the complex world of the funeral directing today. WFDA will participate in this rulemaking to provide input into the areas of coursework which will ultimately be specified by the Examining Board.
Thank you to the many WFDA members who made the effort to contact your elected officials to express your opinion on this legislation over the past six months. The Associations’ ability to successfully influence the final shape of this law was a direct result of the many legislative contacts which were made by our members in regard to this legislation.
- Thomas Moore,WFDA Lobbyist
Thomas E. Moore Government Affairs, Inc.