April 27, 2009 in Idaho

Idaho House amends day-care license bill

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, a longtime opponent of day care licensing legislation, raised concerns during House debate on amendments to a day-care licensing bill, worrying that new regulations would block operators from licensing if they’d accidentally allowed a child to be injured. Backers of the bill assured her that it would not.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Amendments to a long-pending day care licensing bill have cleared the Idaho House.

The amendments raise the threshold for licensing from day cares with four or more unrelated children, to seven or more unrelated children. They maintain, however, the requirement for criminal background checks for workers at day cares with four or more unrelated children; they also make an array of other changes to the bill, SB 1112a, including adjusting fees and eliminating requirements for continuing education.

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, told the House, “SB 1112a is intended to provide additional safety to children in Idaho.” With the amendments, he said, the bill is “not all that I had hoped for,” but, he said, “It will nonetheless make significant progress to protect the safety of those children.”

The amended bill still needs final passage in the House as amended, and concurrence from the Senate to the House amendments. But today’s movement on the bill was the first in a month.

This is the fifth straight year Sayler has tried to get the measure passed; Idaho currently has no regulation for small day care operations, though some Idaho cities have such regulations. Outside those cities, small day care operators currently need not even get criminal background checks.

About the only hangup in the House debate was when Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, expressed fear that a clause including misdemeanor injury to a child among crimes preventing people from being licensed as a day-care operator might go too far.

“Children fall and hurt themselves all the time in day cares,” Wood told the House. “For instance I know of where a child might fall from a swing or a slide or some kind of equipment in a day care.”

Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, an attorney, responded, “To be culpable you have to willfully cause or permit the injury to occur. … It’s not unintentional, it’s not mere negligence. It’s willful. It’s a very high standard.”

The bill passed the Senate on March 12 by a 30-5 vote, but got hung up in the House Health and Welfare Committee, which is dominated by social conservatives who long have opposed state day care licensing.

Finally, the committee agreed on the amendments, but then the bill hung on the House’s calendar for nearly a month, awaiting the attachment of the amendments. The House finally moving on taking up the amendments to a bill so heavily favored by the Senate is a sign that end-of-session disputes between the two houses are moving toward resolution, clearing the way for Idaho’s second-longest legislative session ever to adjourn this week.

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