Childcare bill stalls in Senate
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Childcare bill stalls in Senate

Date: February 21, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 161

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill that would create a rating system for early childhood development facilities stalled in the Senate Wednesday when senators attempted to tack five amendments onto the bill.

The rating system would rate daycares based on their performace. Those ratings would be avaliable to parents. Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, the bill's sponsor said the program would cost the state about $1 million a year. But with the amendments that were presented Wednesday, the cost would rise to $40 million or $50 million a year, Shields said.

Sen. Chris Koster, R-Cass County, presented an amendment that would raise the amount of money that someone can make before losing their subsidized childcare. This would raise the cap from $7 an hour to about $7.75 an hour.

Koster cited that early childhood development could also prevent a child from becoming a juvenile delinquent.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said that single mothers often have to turn down raises and take lower paying jobs, because they cannot afford to lose their subsidized childcare. She proposed an higher increase from $7 an hour to $8.25 an hour.

 

Subsidized childcare can lower daycare costs to $25 a week. If a parent makes too much money and loses subsidized childcare, Justus said daycare costs can rise to about $150 a week.

 

"You are then faced with the horrible decision if you want to pay your light bill, if you want to pay your rent, if you want to leave them in a less reasonable place," Justus said.

 

Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said it was irresponsible to try to amend a bill on the Senate floor that would raise the cost so much.

 

"I believe that it's dangerous, when we try to craft legislation here on quick order," Gross said.

 

Koster said the amendments should be passed quickly because Missouri now rates last in the standards of accepting people to receive subsidized childcare.

 

"What you're saying to me is that 'if I can be last in the class, if I can do no better than be worst in the country, then -- by God -- let me be the worst,'" Koster said. 

 

For 90 minutes, various Senate leaders introduced amendments, which Shields said was useless and defeated the process.

 

"It doesn't advance the issue," Shields said. "It's going to drive a wedge between childhood development."

 

Shields tabled the bill without the amendments and said he does not expect any of the amendments to go through with his bill when it is up for adoption again.

 

He said he hopes that Koster's proposal does go through, but as a different bill or in the Appropriations Committee.