Earlier this year, a bill to mandate that the state regulate all daycare faciltiess was defeated. House Bill 277 aimed to close exemptions and provide additional safeguards for children throughout the state. Conservative members of the legislature, arguing against “big government” intrusion fought its passage and ultimately killed the bill. They had the support of a number of conservative activists led by groups that included the Alabama Christian Education Association (“ACEA”), the Eagle Forum, and American Character Builders (ALCAP).
What exactly did the bill do? In a nutshell it required that all childcare centers, including those run by churches or those claiming to be run by churches, meet minimum safety standards with such mandatory background checks, fire safety records, health safety checks. And yet it failed.
Opponents say licensing would put state regulators in churches and worried that it would ultimately infringe on the free practice of religion. The bill addressed this outright. Another argument against the bill was that licensing daycares wouldn’t prevent problems. Never in my lifetime have I heard anyone, regardless of political affiliation, claim that government intervention meant all problems would go away, but do we give up the idea of safer environments for our kids simply because we can’t make perfect environments?
It’s true we can never prevent all evil or carelessness, but in this case we’re talking about children and don’t we owe it to them to try? We are talking about those who don’t have the ability to protect themselves or communicate, and it’s our job to do as much as we possibly can to ensure their safety. Having a drivers license doesn’t mean someone is going to drive safely, but it does ensure that they’ve learned the basics and have been held to some level of accountability by the state.
The preamble to the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Promoting the general welfare has gotten a bum wrap over the years as its evolved from programs and policies to help those who need it most, to a spider web of services and money spent with no end in sight. But here’s the thing: Children, seniors and the disabled do need support and protection and this is one of those instances where conservatives opposing a regulation have failed them. Providing safety measures to deter and prevent abuse or promote safer daycares is a no brainer.
Governor Kay Ivey came out in support of the regulations and the bill sponsor says she will be filing it again. Let’s hope that politics doesn’t play a part in sound public policy and that kids come first next year.