House and Senate both approve bills regulating unlicensed child care providers
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House and Senate both approve bills regulating unlicensed child care providers

Date: April 18, 2012
By: Danielle Carter and Stacey Kafka
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 1323SB 448

JEFFERSON CITY - Both chambers of the Missouri's legislature gave first-round approval almost simultaneously Wednesday to bills that would regulate unlicensed child care providers.

The House bill, otherwise known as Sam Pratt's law, would heavily fine any in-home providers who failed to disclose the fact they were unlicensed to a child's guardians. The fine could stand at $200 a day and up to $10,000 total. 

The bill would exempt family members, religious organizations, day camps and people providing care for free from penalization.

The bill is named after Sam Pratt, a 3-month-old who died early 2009 at the hands of his unlicensed child care provider. The babysitter, Martha Farris, was charged with abuse of a child resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter. Farris is now out on bail and can still provide child care services.

Similar legislation has gone through House committees in the past months. The House Professional Registration and Licensing Committee conducted a hearing on a bill known as Nathan's Law, which called for the same restrictions on unlicensed child care providers.  Rep Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, sponsored this bill and brought forth Nathan's mother, Shelley Blecha, to testify in favor of the bill.

Schupp and Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, contributed to the bill with three amendments and a substitute amendment. The amendments detailed both the fines and their exemptions.

On the House floor, Schupp said multiple times that there would be a reasonable fine for any provider who did not properly disclose the fact they were unlicensed.

The Senate passed their version of this bill just hours after the House passed its version.

Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, is the sponsor of the Senate bill that would add tighter restrictions on unlicensed child care providers as well as giving judges power over providers during abuse investigations. 

"A condition for your lease from the judge is that he can say you cannot be watching children in your home until these charges are fully dismissed," Rupp said.

The Senate bill also would require unlicensed providers to tell their customers they are not licensed. Currently, those who are found guilty of providing unlicensed childcare are fined $200. Like the House bill, Rupp's proposal increases the fine to $200 per day up to $10,000.

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