House committee approves day care regulation bill

A House of Representatives committee approved Tuesday a compromise proposal that would give the state limited oversight over hundreds of faith-based day cares that are currently unregulated by the state.

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 3:32 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A House of Representatives committee approved Tuesday a compromise proposal that would give the state limited oversight over hundreds of faith-based day cares that are currently unregulated by the state.

The House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the House floor. The approval came after a lengthy public hearing in which advocates named children who had been injured, or killed, in exempt centers.

"Everybody knows we have a problem," bill sponsor Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said.

Alabama has had a longstanding law exempting faith-based day cares from state licensure and regulations such as maximum child-to-worker ratios. Nearly half of the 1,914 day cares in the state claim the religious exemption, according to the Department of Human Resources.

Under the compromise bill, the centers would remain exempt from getting a license, but the state would be able to inspect the centers once yearly. They would also have to submit names of workers and their criminal histories. Centers who take government subsidies would have to be licensed. Exempt facilities would have to post notices that they are not licensed by the state.

Opponents of the bill said they were worried about additional regulations on church-run day cares.

John Eidsmoe, senior counsel with the Foundation for Moral Law, told the committee the centers are already accountable to parents and the church.

"Our concern about this bill is that it is the foot in the door that leads to further regulation," Eidsmoe said.

During the public hearing, Melanie R. Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES for Alabama's Children, named some of the children who had been injured, or in one case killed, in recent high-profile incidents that involved exempt centers.

Eighty-six children were sickened in 2015 at a Montgomery facility after eating food that had been left out overnight. A 5-year-old in Mobile died in August after being left inside a van at an exempt center.

The House approved similar legislation last year, but the bill failed to get a vote in the Alabama Senate. Warren said she hopes to quickly get a floor vote in the Alabama House.

"We stood up here and allowed this bill to die, and in August we had a child dead. I think that put a whole different perspective on what we are responsible for and what we cannot let continue to go in the state of Alabama," Warren said.

Warren said many exempt centers aren't part of actual churches, but are for-profit endeavors that claim a religious affiliation on paperwork to escape regulation by the state.

Warren had initially sought to require all day cares to be licensed in the state, but the proposal got pushback from churches.

J. Robin Mears, executive director of the Alabama Christian Education Association, said the group opposed a licensing requirement but that the current bill was a "right balance" that the organization could support.

"It respects parents and their choice of care for their children. It does require the church to provide complete disclosure to every parent about their childcare ministry," Mears said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 13731

Reported Deaths: 652
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89824
Lauderdale68056
Madison65321
Scott59210
Neshoba51431
Jones49215
Forrest48635
DeSoto4746
Leake38810
Holmes36923
Rankin3566
Jackson29613
Copiah2844
Attala27314
Monroe24624
Lincoln24520
Leflore24126
Harrison2376
Newton2273
Lamar2205
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Pike20011
Adams18815
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Lowndes1647
Warren1547
Washington1535
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Covington1311
Clarke13116
Smith13110
Kemper12710
Chickasaw12712
Wayne1250
Lafayette1243
Carroll11310
Marion1108
Lee1085
Coahoma1063
Clay993
Winston981
Lawrence941
Hancock8811
Itawamba857
Simpson850
Wilkinson849
Yalobusha845
Montgomery801
Sunflower793
Grenada752
Union725
Marshall713
Jefferson Davis712
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Panola622
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Humphreys537
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Walthall490
Perry492
Tunica483
Jefferson400
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Stone300
Webster281
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George201
Benton150
Alcorn141
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 15650

Reported Deaths: 580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2033111
Jefferson163091
Montgomery127433
Marshall6509
Tuscaloosa55812
Lee51032
Franklin4676
Shelby44719
Tallapoosa40063
Butler35912
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Madison3024
Baldwin2749
Elmore2707
Walker2391
Etowah23811
DeKalb2263
Dallas2063
Coffee2061
Lowndes19310
Sumter1936
Morgan1761
Houston1724
Autauga1683
Calhoun1463
Pike1450
Choctaw1444
Colbert1422
Marengo1416
Russell1370
Lauderdale1352
Bullock1333
Hale1324
Randolph1247
Wilcox1187
Marion11410
Barbour1131
Clarke1092
St. Clair1041
Pickens934
Greene914
Talladega912
Chilton871
Dale850
Cullman780
Limestone770
Jackson712
Winston670
Covington671
Washington655
Henry642
Macon622
Crenshaw602
Bibb591
Blount491
Lawrence430
Escambia433
Perry350
Geneva350
Coosa341
Monroe332
Cherokee332
Conecuh281
Clay272
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00
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