April 29, 2009 in Idaho

Idaho House passes day-care licensing bill

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

House members gather for pizza in a room behind their chamber, as their session stretches into the evening on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Day-care licensing legislation has won passage in the House on a 61-5 vote, after Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, spent five years relentlessly, but until now unsuccessfully, proposing it.

“This is good legislation - it meets the needs of parents for safe child care,” Sayler told the House. “We can’t make it a perfect world for our children, but we can make it a safer world.”

The bill requires licensing for day cares that care for seven or more unrelated children, and criminal background checks for those caring for four or more unrelated children. Before the House amended the bill, it required licensing for those caring for four or more unrelated kids.

The bill’s passage came as House members worked into the night in an attempt to pass all pending legislation and adjourn for the session, though they’ve not passed the governor’s transportation funding plan. Under the Idaho Constitution, the House will be forced back into session in three days if the Senate doesn’t also adjourn for the session; Senate leaders said they have no intention of doing so.

Sayler said inspections and standards for licensed child care centers will help avoid horrendous child abuses cases that have been reported around the state involving day cares, several of which he recounted. The state Department of Health & Welfare will enforce the licensing law.

“Their intent is not to put people out of business, their intent is to improve the care of children,” Sayler told the House.

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, who opposed the bill for years, backed it this year. “This is a whim-whammer of a good bill compared to how it come to us,” Nielsen told the House.

House Health & Welfare Chairwoman Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, said, “This legislation was completed with a good collaborative process. It provides health and safety measures for children in both urban and rural day care settings, and it’s cost effective for both large and small day care providers.”

The bill, SB 1112a, now goes back to the Senate for possible concurrence in the House amendments.

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