A bill aimed at streamlining local rules for in-home daycares was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt this week.

Freshman legislator Rep. Suzanne Schreiber, D-Tulsa, authored the bill requiring local governments to follow Department of Human Services capacity limits instead of creating their own. Studies show 55% of Oklahomans live in areas where childcare is scarce.

States like California and Colorado have passed similar laws that define in-home childcares as residential property uses and ban local governments from creating rules for those childcares that don’t apply to other residential properties.

Other towns, like Edmond, have moved to limit childcare capacities beyond what DHS requires. Schreiber said the bill was written with her hometown of Tulsa in mind. Its zoning code prohibits childcare homes with more than seven kids from operating in a neighborhood without an exception from a city board. The rule contradicts DHS regulations, which state that in-home childcares can serve up to 12 kids.

For Jasmine Stewart, who runs a childcare in North Tulsa, the passage of the bill means she’s able to accomplish the longtime goal of expanding her facility. She cares for 10 kids and would have had to either downsize or request an exemption, which would mean paying a $500 fee that equals about two weeks of tuition for one student.

“(The law) means stability,” Stewart said. “It means growth because I don’t have to stress about possibly telling parents this is going to be their last year or ‘We can’t renew your contract.’”

Tulsa officials started the process of reconsidering local requirements, including childcare capacities, in November. But now that Schreiber’s bill has passed, city of Tulsa planner Austin Chapman said they could opt to remove other local requirements too.

On May 17, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is considering recommendations from the city Planning Office that the city enforce the same lot and building regulations for all homes, regardless of whether they house childcare. The office also recommends that the city remove the requirement that in-home childcare employees live in the home.

The Planning Commission will review the recommendations and submit them to the city council and mayor. The date of the meeting council will discuss the recommendations is to be determined.

(Editor’s Note: Suzanne Schreiber is an Oklahoma Watch board member. Board members play no role in Oklahoma Watch’s journalism.)

Ari Fife is a Report for America corps member who covers race and equity issues for Oklahoma Watch. Contact her at (405) 517-2847 or afife@oklahomawatch.org. Follow her on Twitter at @arriifife.

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