The Senate State Affairs Committee Monday approved a plan to add $1 to the cost of printing a death certificate. That extra money would go to train county coroners in Idaho. The legislation also requires new coroners to attend a training class within a year after being elected, and require all coroners to take 24 hours of continuing education every two years. The added $1 is expected to bring in $50,000 a year.
Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, said training for coroners would lead to better results for people who have a death in their family. “It appears to be a small burden to put on the fact that we’re doing a better job in determining the actual cause of death in some situations,” Gibbs said. “Both the families and the insurances companies have a stake in ensuring accuracy.” County coroners are elected officials, and Gibbs said several coroners are expected not to run for re-election this fall.
“Coroners see things that hopefully no one here will ever have to see, and training is a good thing for them,” said Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs. “This legislation will go a long way in helping our coroners be the professionals that they would all like to be.”
“We expect several coroners to not run, and we think it’s only fair that anyone to come from another agency or another line of work to have some training,” said Gem County Coroner John Buck, a member of the Idaho State Association of County Coroners.
Payette County Coroner Keith Schuller said he took a one-week course in St. Louis after he was elected coroner. “The course was excellent,” Schuller said. “It covered every conceivable event that I was going to see.” Before becoming a coroner, Schuller was an army medic, plumber, and school teacher. He added that during the daylong classes, new coroners would watch videos of autopsies while eating sandwiches for lunch.
The current $13 charge for each death certificate goes to the Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, which manages birth and death certificates. Bureau director James Aydelotte opposed adding a dollar to each certificate. “I don’t think it’s a good time to raise fees,” he said. “Adopting this fee is essentially adding a 7 percent tax to the cost of a death certificate.” Aydelotte said adding the fee would open the doors to other organizations attempting to tack on added fees for birth and death certificates that would go to them. He also said there’s no way to guarantee that funds collected in one county from the extra $1 would stay in that county for training. “There are more appropriate funding mechanisms,” Aydelotte said. “It seems that the most appropriate solution would be at the county level.”
“A dollar in a lot of situations is a lot of money,” said Caribou County Coroner Duayne Sims. “In this situation, it really isn’t.”