Schwarzenegger Signs Cemetery Bill

August 7, 2009 8:53:33 PM PDT
Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill designed to keep private cemeteries from becoming disaster areas when they're neglected or abandoned by their owners.Families whose loved ones are buried here at Evergreen Memorial Park have been searching for a solution for more than two years. And now they finally have the legislation they've been fighting for.

Ralph Gonzales has dedicated the past two years of his life to solving the problems at this cemetery where his wife, parents, and other relatives are buried.

Gonzales said, "Some people ask me sometimes we don't see you in church anymore. Because I'm in church every day. Because I pray to God every day to give me strength for all the families who have loved ones out here."

Evergreen Memorial became overrun with weeds and covered in dry grass and trash in 2007 when the owner surrendered its operating license. Family members began tending to their own loved ones graves and holding regular meetings to ask for help from city, county, and state officials. Now, more than two years later, Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that will allow a court to appoint a temporary manager to maintain private cemeteries when they are neglected or abandoned by their owners. The legislation was authored by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani.

"I believe this is a very important step to insure that private cemeteries are kept up as they should be to reflect the care that the family had wanted for that loved one," said Galgiani.

Evergreen went into foreclosure last year and is now owned by private investors who are in the process of having a license approved.

Laura Singh said, "As you can see we've been running the mowers, we've done a lot of ground repair and maintenance, so I think it's come a long way since March."

Gonzales says the recent changes and the new legislation will ensure all of the people buried here and at other cemeteries across the state are treated with the dignity they deserve.

"I always say we have to work together and stick together to make sure this never happens again, never, never again," said Gonzales.

The cemetery bill was passed as an urgency measure which means it will take effect as soon as the Secretary of State chapters it into law.

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