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Bill to license some day cares passes Senate committee unanimously, goes to floor

By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day cares in the state, gained a favorable report Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee after overwhelming approval on the House floor a couple weeks ago.

In a release after its approval, the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said the favorable report put the bill with “one last hurdle to clear.”

“I hope this will be on the floor of the Senate in the coming days and it will continue to get the bipartisan support it has so far,” Warren said. “It’s wonderful to see everyone working together to make sure not one more little one gets harmed.”

Rep. Pebblin Warren speaks in favor of the day care bill at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Feb. 21, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Others on the committee shared Warren’s optimism as they all voted in favor of the bill. State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, thanked Warren for working with all the parties, including religious groups, to work through the bill.

Despite the overwhelming support of the bill at the committee, some senators had concerns about the amended bill.

State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, said the bill’s concessions were too much and stressed that she would like to include private schools and institutions in the legislation.

“Every child deserves to be in a place where they feel safe,” Figures said.

Figures said she would work the issues out with Warren before the bill appeared on the Senate floor.

Another concern came from state Sen. Roger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, who said that churches may need more time to renovate their structures to accommodate building codes for licensing by the bill. Both senators voted in favor of the bill.

Sen. Roger Smitherman speaks favorably about Rep. Warren’s Day Care bill that would license certain day care centers at a Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 21, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Warren’s bill has faced great challenges since its introduction this year. Some of the problems were a continuation of last year’s dispute that saw Alabama Citizens Action Group, a conservative political action committee, denounce the bill.

Sparked by the death of a boy in an unlicensed day care, Warren’s bill enjoyed great support from lawmakers, including Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey who came out as a supporter last year.

Despite the growing support, the bill was still not up to par with ALCAP’s standards, and representatives from the group and proponents of the bill met several times this session to see if a compromise could be hammered out.

The final solution was that religious day cares would only be licensed if they received federal funds or grants along with notices that tell parents they are sending children to unlicensed day cares.

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These notices include an affidavit signed by the parents acknowledging their choice, and signs around the day cares that say they are unlicensed.

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Warren said that a similar provision requiring day cares who receive federal funds to be licensed is coming in federal laws.

Perhaps now the bill will face its greatest obstacle: leaving the Senate floor to Ivey’s desk.

Last year, the bill died on the final Legislative day pending a disagreement between state Sen. Shay  Shelnutt, R-Trussville, on provisions in the bill. The bill left the floor and never came back.

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