Outmaneuvering the Legislature on adult-family homes
One of the he state Legislature's top priorities ought to be raising the adult-family home license fee.
STATE lawmakers left Olympia with plenty undone, but one of the most egregious late-in-the-game stumbles was a failure to raise adult-family home license fees to pay for better inspections and monitoring.
This is not an industry that can operate without more sunshine and scrutiny.
Adult-family homes are a growing option for the elderly and the frail, with the number of homes skyrocketing in recent years. But a Seattle Times investigation, "Seniors for Sale," uncovered a business niche plagued with abuse and neglect.
Examples include inadequately trained caregivers imprisoning the elderly in their rooms, roping residents to beds at night and drugging others into submission. Violators were either ignored or treated too lightly.
The Department of Social and Health Services, which licenses the homes, responded earlier this month with a plan to step up inspections and improve complaint investigations. The perfectly reasonable view is the industry should help shoulder the burden of regulatory oversight, thus DSHS requested its first substantial license-fee increase in years. Appropriately so.
Adult homeowners pay $100 a year for a license; they can charge residents from $2,000 to $5,000 a month. Raising the fee would not only help pay for oversight, it would discourage those drawn to the business solely by profit.
The House and the Senate took up bills seeking to raise the fee $1,000. In the end, lawmakers said they ran out of time.
It begs credulity to believe the fee increase could not have been prioritized during the lengthy special session. Lawmakers, after all, managed to raise fees on nursing homes and boarding homes.
The difference? Owners of adult-family homes inundated lawmakers with e-mails and letters opposing the fee increase. OK, but don't we elect lawmakers to stand up to opposition and do what is right?
Let's face it. Olympia was outmaneuvered. The fee increase should top the priority list next legislative session. An industry with a frightening track record must be held accountable.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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