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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Governor puts hold on rules for day cares

By DAVE SOLOMON
August 12. 2017 7:06PM

A HEARING on new rules for state licensed child care centers, originally scheduled for Aug. 17 before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR), has been indefinitely postponed amid opposition from day care providers.

The delay was requested by Gov. Chris Sununu and Jeffrey Meyers, commissioner of Health and Human Services.

"Gov. Sununu has heard from a number of stakeholders who are very concerned about the impact of the proposed regulations on their businesses. We have fully engaged with those stakeholders and the Department of Health and Human Services to get a firm handle on the process and to ensure that all concerns are fully considered," according to Sununu's spokesman, Ben Vihstadt.

Sununu and Meyers want the regulations drafted by the Child Care Licensing Unit to undergo further "review and vetting."

"We are confident that the process, once completed, will produce rules that both protect our children and do not overly burden child care businesses," said Vihstadt.

The new regulations have been in the works since 2015, and were revised after public hearings and two public comment periods.

Hundreds of responses poured into the DHHS website, taking issue with many of the regulations.

One that drew voluminous criticism was a limit on video screen time, restricting children to no more than 120 minutes of screen time every two weeks.

The final draft of the rules made public on Aug. 4 offered some exceptions to the rule for electronic media used by school-age children for homework or physical activity as well as e-readers - in conjunction with smart boards, tablets and other electronic media - "used for hands-on, interactive learning activities."

But the changes did little to deflect opposition. The final draft is 112 pages of regulations, compared to the earlier draft of 104 pages.

Soon after the final draft was released, an email went out to several child care center owners from Sally Wuellenweber, director and owner of the Tot Spot in Concord.

"Not surprising, they made very few substantive changes," she wrote. "No changes on professional development, expulsion policy, exceptions for substitutes or fingerprint cards, or decreasing fines."

She suggested calling the governor's office, news media and the DHHS commissioner to express concerns, while preparing bullet points and a petition for JLCAR.

Apparently, the campaign has had the desired effect, at least for now.

Calling all graduates

If you're a recent graduate of a college, university or community college in the state, Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, wants to hear from you.

Reagan is chairman of the Public Higher Education Study Committee, which he said "is looking for the public's input related to the quality and overall value of higher education in New Hampshire." He is asking graduates to consider whether attending a public or private institution of higher education provided increased critical thinking skills, personal or professional development, ability to repay student loan debt, or advanced knowledge and adequate career skills.

"These individual stories will be an integral part of our work to ensure the $86 million in taxpayer dollars spent on higher education are providing an adequate return on investment that will not only support the needs of our state's workforce but ensure our students will obtain good paying jobs and are able excel in their careers," he said.

Reagan said he's looking for some outside input to balance the reports the committee gets from the university and community college system.

"What's the experience of people who paid the exorbitant amount of money for a university education and are now waitstaff?" he said.

Written responses should be mailed to 53 Mount Delight, Deerfield, 03037. Reagan can also be contacted by email at john.reagan111@gmail.com or by phone at 463-5945.

"The University System of New Hampshire looks forward to testifying before the Public Higher Education Study Committee to discuss the positive return on investment it achieves with the financial resources the state commits to public higher education," said USNH spokesman Tiffany Eddy.

"The quality education New Hampshire students receive produces significant long-term benefits to New Hampshire's economy and business community who desperately need the next generation of highly skilled workers to keep our state competitive and growing."

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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