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Committee kills day-care bill at late hour

Saying mothers should stay home with their children, members of a House committee have killed legislation to require minimum safety standards and criminal history checks for Idaho day-cares. “It’s gut-wrenching for me,” Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said before the 6-5 vote against the bill. “What can we do to keep mom at home?” Loertscher said he “cannot imagine” ever taking a child to a day-care center, and said, “There is no substitute, there is absolutely no substitute for families taking care of children.” Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said, “Being separate from your mother … there’s reason to believe this could be harmful.”

The House Health and Welfare Committee kept backers of the day-care licensing bill waiting until long after 5 p.m. for a hearing that was scheduled to start at 1:30 – after it was put off last week – then limited them to three minutes apiece to testify in favor of the bill. A stunned Cathy Kowalski, a Coeur d’Alene early childhood consultant who has worked on the bill for three years, said, “I think it is a committee whose members are definitely out of touch with the needs of their constituents, and I think the working families in their districts need to let them know.” Sylvia Chariton, who testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the American Association of University Women of Idaho, said, “It’s ridiculous – those men live in a time warp, when 60 percent of all mothers of children under 6 years of age take them someplace to be cared for.”

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the committee, “For working parents it is a vital concern.” His bill, HB 163, originally would have set minimal health and safety standards, training requirements and staffing levels and required criminal history checks for day-cares caring for as few as two unrelated children, but he offered amendments to raise that to apply only to those caring for six or more children. “We’re not trying to be burdensome,” Sayler told the committee.

In the final vote, the committee’s three Democrats and two Republicans voted in favor of the amended bill: Reps. John Rusche, D-Lewiston; Lynn Luker, R-Boise; Sue Chew, D-Boise; Margaret Henbest, D-Boise; and Sharon Block, R-Idaho Falls.

Six Republicans voted against the bill even as amended: Reps. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home; Loertscher; Thayn; Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins; Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls; and Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot. Read the full story here in the Spokesman-Review.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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