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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers say they’re concerned about sovereignty, H&W says it’s Idaho kids who will lose out

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare has sent out an unusually strongly worded news release, warning, “The future of Idaho’s Child Support program is uncertain after members of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration committee voted Friday afternoon to table Senate Bill 1067. The bill would have allowed the state to meet minimum federal requirements for working on child support cases with foreign countries.”

“This is new territory for us,” Richard Armstrong, director of the Department of Health and Welfare, which manages the state’s child support program, said in the release. “We’ll work with our federal partners to determine the total impact, but this vote will make it nearly impossible for us to enforce child support like we should, so Idaho’s children are taken care of. The bottom line is that Idaho families may not receive their support money because we will not have the tools we need to make sure those payments are made.”

Armstrong said Idaho H&W currently receives and distributes $205 million in support payments for 155,000 children; you can read the full news release here. H&W also distributed letters documenting the concerns; you can read them here and here.

Meanwhile, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, said, “We would be bound to the laws of a foreign country.” And Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, said, “We didn’t want to give up our sovereignty. We have $42 million coming to the state – it wasn’t worth risking our sovereignty to me.”

Scott said, “The laws of our country are not the laws of some countries. Women are treated a lot differently in some countries – they don’t have equal rights.” She added, “They’re trying to strong-arm the Idaho Legislature into adopting this code, this law. Basically they’re threatening us.”

Asked about Health & Welfare’s warning that the federal government would cut off its access to the federal system to process child support payments for Idaho children, Scott asked skeptically, “Are they really going to do that? Really? Really?”

The Health & Welfare news release said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been very clear that it would cut off both Idaho’s funding and its access to federal databases that it uses to enforce child-support for Idaho kids orders if the state doesn’t comply. “These databases are the main tools used by the program for locating non-custodial parents and collecting support order payments,” the department said. It concluded, “All families who rely on child support payments are encouraged to contact their legislators.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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