Hawaii lawmakers decided not to pass a bill Friday that would have mandated the state Department of Health post inspection reports for day care centers.
Senate Bill 511 was one of several measures introduced this session in response to concerns from parents whose children died in day cares. Hawaii is among a minority of states that doesn’t post child care inspection reports online.
Rep. Dee Morikawa said after a hearing that neither House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke nor Ways and Means Committee Sen. Jill Tokuda agreed to spend $80,000 to post the inspection reports online.
Cynthia King reads to her 19-month-old son Dexter Muir at their residence in October 2016. Another son, Wiley, died in a Honolulu day care in 2014 at the age of 4 months.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The committee of House and Senate negotiators led by Morikawa and Sen. Josh Green decided not to officially defer the bill. By leaving it in limbo, Green said that it could be passed early in next year’s session.
In addition, federal law actually requires the online posting of the inspections by the end of 2018.
Morikawa said during the hearing that she wanted to assure supporters that the House isn’t turning its back on the issue. Afterward she noted that the Department of Human Services published safe sleep rules for day cares in March in response to public and lawmakers’ concerns.
Morikawa also pointed out that lawmakers agreed earlier this week to pass House Bill 674, which would require day care providers to carry liability insurance. The bill is up for a floor vote Tuesday.
The measure is named after Wiley Muir, a 4-month-old who died in a Honolulu day care in 2014. Wiley’s mother, Cynthia King, discovered discrepancies in the day care owner’s account of how Wiley died and that he was sleeping in a baby bounce chair, rather than a crib.
King said after the hearing that she’s grateful that the safe sleep rules were approved and that HB 674 is making progress. But she said that the purpose of the bill is to allow parents to sue day care operators if their children get hurt.
The inspections bill, she said, could have helped prevent such harm from occurring.
“People are patting me on the back saying, ‘You already won. You did a good job,’” said King, who has spent many hours advocating at the Legislature this session. “But my goal wasn’t to get a law past just with my baby’s name on it. That wasn’t the goal. My goal was to get laws passed that would actually save other babies from needing laws with their names on them.”
King is also disappointed that the Legislature didn’t pass a proposal that would increase penalties for violating the law regarding child care facilities. The measure died earlier this session.
Morikawa noted that SB 511 was one of many that didn’t pass Friday.
“It all boils down to what happens in those big bills like the rail, the (transient accommodations tax), the collective bargaining agreements,” said Morikawa. “It’s just a decision that was made in that this is an issue that we can still pursue later but it’s not something that we need to lock in right now.”
Keopu Reelitz, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said in an email that the agency is working to develop a website to post inspection reports and substantiated complaints by the end of 2018 to comply with federal rules.
But King says that waiting to post inspection reports online doesn’t make sense given the danger to children. She believes the department should post the reports regardless of the bill’s failure.
“When we let it wait, we are continuing to put kids at risk,” King said after the hearing. “I think that there’s a philosophy in the Legislature that it should take a couple sessions to pass a bill. And for me, I think that when it’s a common sense, pretty cheap fix they should be able to pass it sooner.”
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