BOISE - Day-care licensing legislation cleared the House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday on a unanimous vote, but only with extensive amendments attached - including requiring licensing only for day cares with seven or more unrelated children, while still requiring criminal background checks for those with four or more.
Idaho currently licenses only day cares with 13 or more unrelated children; Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, has brought legislation unsuccessfully every year for the past five years to expand that. This is the first year the bill has made it out of committee in either house; it passed the Senate 30-5 last month.
“This is an improved version,” said Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.
Rep. Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot, said, “The no licensing of the six and lower - I think that was a big thing that I was hung up on before, because I live in a rural area, and everybody knows everybody. … I just didn’t think we should ask them to go through that.”
The amendments to SB 1112a also remove all requirements for continuing education for day-care workers in day cares with fewer than 13 children; make some adjustments to fees, with the result that the bill may carry a cost to the state of some $30,000 a year rather than being self-funding; and make various other changes. Basic health and safety requirements, including requiring a working phone, smoke detectors, and fencing around water, remain in the bill for those day cares that would be licensed, but not for the smaller ones with fewer than seven children.
Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee backed the amended bill, and Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, seconded a motion from Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, to send the bill to the House’s amending order with the amendments attached.
“I hope that we can get something done to get our kids in a more safe place,” Durst said.
Committee Chairwoman Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, said, “I think this was a good compromise bill and I think it was a bill the committee could support - we had a unanimous vote. I think it will provide protection for Idaho’s children, and it also will allow the child care providers in the rural areas to stay in business and to have safety measures in place for the children, so I’m very pleased.”
Luker, Thayn and Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, were among those who worked with the bill’s sponsors, Sayler and Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, on the amendments.
“This time it was successful,” Block said. “That’s what happens when we all work collaboratively.”
Corder, however, said some of the amendments may cause difficulty in the Senate, particularly the fiscal impact; the bill may have to go to a conference committee, he said. If it passes, he said, “I’ll be pleased that we have done something it has taken 20 years to do. I just would’ve been more proud if we were protecting all the children.”