LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas lawmakers gave the first OK to a bill aimed at setting fines for perpetual cemetery owners who do not properly maintain their property.

The Cemetery Act would be an amendment that would modify the law that is already been put in place.

The House Public Health, Labor and Welfare Committee passed HB1543 on Tuesday, advancing it to the House floor.

The bill would require a cemetery to properly care for, maintain and preserve the burial grounds.

State Rep. Denise Ennett brought the bill before the committee to approve, saying that last summer one of her constituents, Cheryl Yancy, let her know there would be a hearing about Rest In Peace Memorial Gardens in Hensley to discuss the upkeep of the cemetery.

Ennett said she heard countless testimonies of those who said they couldn’t find their loved ones, the tombstones had been sunken, cracked, or in some cases, some of the bodies had been buried in the wrong plot.

In the bill, if a perpetual care cemetery does not maintain its duty to preserve it, it could be suspended, have permits or licenses revoked or receive a civil penalty of at most $500 per violation. 

This passage in the house committee is just one stop of many before the bill heads to the Governor’s desk. Ennett said the bill is long overdue and Yancy, who gave testimony to the committee, says many of her loved ones are buried at the cemetery in Hensley.

“The cemetery I was coming out visiting and it just kept going downhill,” Yancy said.

Yancy says the vase on her mother’s marker was broken, and some grave markers can’t be found because of dirt and overgrown grass.

“It was heartbreaking to me because I felt even though they’re dead they still have voices,” Yancy said.

The manager of the cemetery, Percy Webb, said if a family can’t find their loved one’s marker or if it’s been damaged, they should call the office and it may come at a price. However, that’s a cost Yancy said she shouldn’t have to pay.

“It’s supposed to rest in peace. We shouldn’t have to go through any of this,” Yancy said.

She said she hopes this bill is an answer to her problems.

Those who spoke for this bill say there are several cemeteries around the area in this condition and it’s also a problem that is happening nationwide.