Friday, March 6, 2009

Daycare Licensing Clears Initial Hurdles

A bill that seeks to bring minimal licensing standards to daycare facilities that have less than 13 children will finally get a vote this year on the floor of the Senate. The bill (SB1112) that's been revised and refined by sponsors Rep. George Sayler (D-Coeur d'Alene) and Sen Tim Corder (R-Mountain Home) has made it further than all previous attempts over the last five years.

On Wednesday, the Senate Health & Welfare Committee voted to send the bill to the 14th (amending) order. The hearing room was packed and more people wanted to testify than were allowed to. I was one of the people who had signed up to give testimony but never had the chance. Chairman Lodge simply decided at a certain point that there would no further need to hear anyone else who might be supporting the bill.

There was much discussion about the fact that parents need to take responsibility for making sure a daycare facility is healthy and safe. I very much wanted to refute that argument. It simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. I'm hoping, that if it makes it to the House, I'll be able to give my testimony to the House Health & Welfare Committee.

The wife of former Bill Sali staffer Wayne Hoffman testified as a former daycare operator, claiming that licensing would be financially devastating, particularly given that she was making minimum wage as a daycare owner. I'm sympathetic--my wife Veronica and I know how difficult it is to make money in this business. We've been in the business for three years and admittedly have questioned the value of having Veronica work so hard for less than ample financial rewards. But, if someone can't afford to spend roughly $200/year to certify that their facility is safe for children, then that person simply shouldn't be in the business to begin with, as far as I'm concerned. And if I play by the rules, I don't want to have to compete against facilities that cut corners and endanger children.

Today, the Senate passed friendly amendments to the bill, satisfying some of the concerns of committee members, including Senator John McGee. Now the bill will have to pass the full Senate. Then it's off to the House, where I fear it faces even tougher challenges. Stay tuned.

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