Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Early education advocates oppose HB 313

Stop unlicensed day care

The House approved HB 313 Licensing of employer day care facilities Tuesday on second reading. Constant readers will recall that the ESPC believes the bill’s title is a bit misleading. Rather than licensing employer day care facilities, the measure allows them to operate on site without meeting state licensing requirements.

The ESPC and Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance see no benefit to compromise on the bill. We urge advocates for safe day care services in Wyoming to contact their representatives and tell them why they should oppose it when it comes up on third reading Wednesday morning.

Proponents in the Committee of the Whole debate Monday seemed to be saying that people who do not support the bill do not support employer-sponsored, on-site child care. This is not the case. Deanna Frey of the WCAA notes that on-site child care can indeed be a very positive experience for the child and the parent. But just because the parent is close by does not necessarily mean that the child is receiving care in a safe and healthy environment.

And other critics have noted that there is no guarantee that parents will be working near on-site care centers. Energy industry workers especially may find themselves miles away from their office in the course of the work day.

Licensing provides basic provisions for health and safety, for example:
  • background checks for employees;
  • age requirements for employees; minimum training for employees;
  • facilities that have passed fire, health and sanitation inspections;
  • staff trained to administer medications;
  • square footage requirement to ensure adequate space to play and learn;
  • outdoor play space;
  • staff/child ratios that provide for the opportunity for children to form relationships, and receive the care and education appropriate to their needs.
Proponents also said Monday that employers still must consider the liability surrounding such operations, so will operate them safely.

But that may not be the case if an employer decides to cut corners in order to keep costs down. The prospect of suing an employer will be cold comfort to parents who could see a child injured because staff is not properly screened or trained or, worse, find that the failure to meet minimum fire safety requirements resulted in their child’s death.

Good employers will meet these basic requirements. But exempting all employers from licensing requirements will make it easier for an economically-troubled business to cut corners. They know there will be no third-party inspector who checks to see that children are safe and properly cared for in on-site centers.

Please email or contact your representative before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11. Urge them to vote No on HB 313.

Property tax refund bill delayed

Meeting at the noon recess Tuesday, the Senate Revenue Committee ran out of time and postponed consideration of HB 138 Property tax refund program.

The bill fine-tunes a tax relief program for people who have lived in the state five years and whose gross household income falls well below the statewide median income or median income of their county, whichever is greater.

This is “circuit breaker” property tax relief, since it helps longer-term residents of growing areas that have seen steep increases in property values, such as Park, Sheridan and Teton counties.

The new legislation also changes the program, which started last year, to expand qualification to households in which each individual person has assets of $100,000 or less. The existing asset limit is $50,000 per person in the household. It also exempts retirement funds, such as a 401K accounts, and medical savings accounts from counting toward the total assets of the applicants.

Senate Revenue Committee Chairman John Schiffer of Kaycee said the hearing of the bill will resume when the committee meets again later this week. Sen. Schiffer is a co-sponsor.

The ESPC supports HB 138.