The room was as packed as it could be at the Senate Health & Welfare Committee today, where there were a whopping 12 bills on the agenda for introduction. It’s the final day for introducing bills in non-privileged committees; the Senate plans to go back on the floor at 4 p.m. just to read across the desk the newly introduced measures in time for the deadline; many committee agendas are similarly packed today, though this one was the longest. Among the bills introduced today: The day-care licensing bill from Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, and Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home. Proposed and killed each year for at least the last five years, this year’s version, Corder told the panel, is “a fine piece of legislation for you to consider this year.” He said, “We cannot cover every problem or guarantee all facilities are safe all the time, but we can … protect more children than we are now.”
The measure would require licensing of all day-care operations that care for four or more unrelated children. It would set minimum standards including criminal background checks, health and fire safety inspections, and child-staff ratios. Sayler and Corder said they’ve worked with an array of groups, from health districts to the National Rifle Association, to fine-tune the bill. Sayler said the NRA objected to language in the bill last year on storage of guns at home day-cares; this time, the bill includes the NRA’s own suggested language. “We’re turning over every stone to try and meet these objections,” Sayler told Eye on Boise. “I think it’s a very good piece of legislation at this point. I think we’ve done everything we can to fine-tune it.”
Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, questioned whether the bill would affect an aunt watching nieces and nephews, but Corder told him that’s specifically excluded from the latest version of the bill. Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, said he’d vote to introduce the bill, but still has doubts. “This is a comprehensive, bureaucratic, liberal day-care licensing bill not unlike what half the people wanted in 1986,” Darrington said, during what he called the “day-care wars … It was utter warfare.” But, he said, “I recognize times are changing a little.” The two co-sponsors were upbeat after the unanimous vote to introduce the bill. “We are looking forward to an actual hearing and a lot of good debate on the issue,” Sayler said. Corder said he thought Darrington was warming up to the idea. “I think he was much more warm about it this year than last,” Corder said. “It seems that way,” added Sayler.
Two years ago, the bill was killed in the House Health & Welfare Committee after several lawmakers said they thought mothers should stay home with their children. Last year, the bill was introduced, but didn’t get a hearing; Corder complimented Senate Health & Welfare Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, for taking that approach, and said the result was a much-improved bill this year. He said, “We’re both very proud of this - this is a much better piece of legislation than last year, by far.”