Guerra DeBerry Coody's Working Moms Get Legislative Savvy

At the threat of being shut down by Child Care Licensing, a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, San Antonio marketing firm Guerra DeBerry Coody reluctantly began the mind numbing process of commercially licensing their onsite employee childcare facility last August. They've been licensed since February, but thanks to the firm's big league acquaintances, they may be able to convert their license to a small business childcare permit if all goes as planned and Rick Perry puts his John Hancock to House Bill 1385.

If signed into law, the bill will allow small businesses of 50 employees or less, with no more than 12 children on the premises to apply for the permit, avoiding the drawn out process of becoming a commercial caregiver. Although GDC already went through tons of meetings with Child Care Licensing, and has gone through considerable stress to meet building codes and detailed standards to pass their three surpise check-ups to become commercially licensed, they would benefit from the less finicky requirements of a small business permit. 

Michele Autenrieth Brown, GDC director of broadcast services, said making small businesses comply with the sheer volume of requirements for a full-blown daycare facility with 40 kids makes no sense. The employees at GDC are much more involved with their children during the day than parents who leave their children at alternative locations. Brown had been difficult to reach today because she was running up the hall every few minutes to check on her daughter, who is currently embarking on the most exciting and important rite of passage for every youngling: potty training.

"It is much like you would do in a home office," she said.

The bill's author, Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, said there is a distinction between dropping your child off at a daycare accross town and dropping your child off down the hall from your office. The current code recognizes that the risk children are exposed to when outside their parents' care is different under different circumstances. Some locations, such as churches, are already exempt from having to become commercially licensed because they are seen as involving less risk to children.

Villarreal said he wanted to help the record number of working mothers that are struggling to balance their careers and families.

Small businesses throughout the United States are taking notice of the firm's successful lobbying efforts and the firm's high employee retention rate, much due to the popular childcare center, which consistently has a waiting list. Visitors that drop by to see the baby-friendly setup ask questions from the complex to the tactical.

There is no doubt that GDC should get props from Texas' small businesses and working moms, but one must question if just any small mom and pop joint could have pulled this off. After all, over half of the bills filed during this legislative session were canned. How did GDC end up on top?

Brown said the firm never planned on becoming lobbyists and that they are by no means experts.

Nonetheless, they are experts in the thought-molding biz: public relations. The firm has served as a political consultant at both the local and national levels. In 2000 they helped President Bush cature the largest number of Hispanic voters ever by a Republican presidential canidate. They have also crafted messages in support of local Mayor Phil Hardberger, the bond election and the anti-smoking initiative. GDC President Trish DeBerry is currently advising Morris Stribling, City Council District 8 canidate.

GDC may not have known the ins and outs of the legal system, but they knew the right people to call. Brown said the firm never would have gotten as far as they did without team-Villarreal's guidance and support. The firm also got a helping hand from State Senator Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who led the charge to reform the state's DFPS during the interim of the 78th legislature. Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio hopped on board too. In addition, the firm used it's courtship skills to build good relationships with the City Council and DFPS.

As my mother always told me: It's all about networking.