“This … is something I know too much about, Bill 1481,” Barnes said as he put his signature on the document.
The bill is in response to the discovery in February and March of more than 300 uncremated bodies at Tri-State Crematory in Noble. Gov. Barnes visited the site in February.
“This is a mighty important bill to the people of northwest Georgia,” state Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, told the governor at the signing. “Most of us feel, governor, that we wouldn’t have the money for this terrible tragedy if you hadn’t been involved in helping us.”
The new law makes abandonment of a human body a felony punishable by one to three years in prison.
Older laws applied only to crematories that were “open to the public.” Tri-State Crematory dealt with funeral homes, and therefore fell through a loophole in the wording of legal documents. The new law broadly defines crematory as “any place where cremations are performed” to alleviate any misunderstanding.
Crematories are now required to be state-licensed and operated by a licensed funeral director.
The law also aids in the identification and tracking of cremains with mandatory IDs. Medical records must also be maintained 10 years after an individual’s death. Crematories will also be inspected annually.
Several Walker County officials made the trip to Atlanta to witness the signing. Among them were Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, Emergency Services Director David Ashburn, coroner DeWayne Wilson, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, Rep. Snow, Maj. Hill Morrison, and Detective Michael Freeman.
In related news, Walker County officials last week inspected the Lane Funeral Home crematory in Rossville, in accordance with Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell’s ordinance requiring quarterly inspection of county crematories