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Hearing on new day care rules delayed again

State House Bureau

September 11. 2017 9:24PM

CONCORD — Child care providers have achieved another delay in the implementation of new rules for day care centers that many say would put them out of business.

The first hearing on the new rules before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) was originally scheduled for Aug. 17 but was postponed at the request of Gov. Chris Sununu after a meeting with members of the child care provider group called “Keep Our Doors Open.”

The hearing on the new rules proposed by the Department of Child Care Licensing was later scheduled for Sept. 21, but last week, that date was rescinded as well.

“The rules will appear on the agenda for the Sept. 21 JLCAR meeting. However, the department has requested a postponement and will not be presenting the rule at the JLCAR meeting in September,” according to a recent notice posted on the JLCAR website.

JoAnn O’Shaughnessy, owner of the Manchester Child Development Center and an organizer of the “Doors Open” group, attributed the delay to the group’s intervention.

“We have achieved another postponement,” she said.

The latest postponement comes after a Sept. 1 meeting between members of the day care provider group and Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeffrey Meyers.

“It went extremely well,” said O’Shaughnessy. “The commissioner was very attentive to our concerns.”

There is no timeline for bringing the rules to the JLCAR, where approval would be the final step before implementation.

“At the end of the meeting (Meyers) said he was interested in sitting down with a group of us again, and as long as it takes for us to come to some sort of agreement,” she said. “So right now everything continues to be on hold.”

The governor and Meyers want the proposed regulations drafted by the Child Care Licensing Unit in DHHS to undergo further review and vetting, according to Ben Vihstadt, the governor’s spokesman.

O’Shaughnessy has owned and operated child care centers in Manchester for more than 40 years, and says the rules and regulations governing child care have grown over time.

According to DHHS, the new rules have been developed largely in response to conditions attached to federal grant money that subsidizes day care expenses for low-income families.

The new regulations have been in the works since 2015, and were revised after public hearings and two public comment periods in April and June, in anticipation of a JLCAR vote in August.

"The department continues to review feedback and expects to present the proposed rules at JLCAR's October meeting," said DHHS spokesman Jake Leon.

The original draft of 104 pages grew to 112 pages in the revision.

The proposed changes to the state’s licensing rules encompass almost every aspect of day care operation, including training requirements and criminal background checks for staff, limits on screen time for children, evacuation planning and dealing with allergies.

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