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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers question H&W officials about child support system

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, asked state Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong, “We were originally told that we could not add any amendments to the original bill. So my question is why now are we allowed to add these amendments?” Armstrong responded, “It depends on how the question is asked. And if the question was asked, can we change any part of the universal part of the statute, the answer would be no. You can’t have a universal agreement if the words aren’t the same, and if we don’t have the words the same on that part of the statute, then a judge in Idaho would not know how that order is going to be executed in another state. So that’s the uniform part. But we had indicated that if someone wished to modify another section of Idaho Code, that we would not argue and that we would then check to make sure that there was no conflict. And we had been talking about that early on.”

“Now, I understand that there were a number of legislators who only heard that first part of the conversation, and didn’t hear the second part of the conversation. But we had always been open if other provisions of statute needed to be modified, and we had had some conversation with representatives about that early on.”

Scott then asked, “Ms. Wolff said this is all about joining this treaty. Is it not true that once the United States enters in to join this treaty, that our amendments would be worthless because it would be a superior law?” Armstrong said, “No. The provisions that are in UIFSA ‘08 are very specific to the treaty. But UIFSA’s been around since ‘90s. So we’ve had a number of modifications over the years. … This is just the latest version of that agreement. Now it happens to be the version that included the treaty that had been negotiated. That’s why this version, this update, happens to have more provisions around international than any one previously. … The old one had over 20 references to international treaties and international conventions.”

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, asked why Idaho couldn’t just have bilateral agreements with each country for which it has a child support case. Armstrong said it could, but it would greatly delay and hinder support payments. Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, asked if that would violate federal law, and Armstrong said yes.

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, said “The problem, and this is just my humble opinion, director, if we would have had this information … at our last hearing, it would have been very helpful. … Why wasn’t this information given to us at the first hearing?” Armstrong responded, “In retrospect, there are a number of things we’d have done differently, no question. So part of me says, well, if we had known where we were going to end up, then we would have spent more hours in front of the committee than we did. We believed that we were conveying the message. However, as Rep. Dayley has pointed out, just because I say the words does not mean that you receive those words the same way that I am speaking them. We thought we had covered the bases. We thought we had made it clear. … Unfortunately … the sequence ... blocked some folks from being able to receive the message. Our role is to make sure we’re clear, and that’s what we’re doing now is to make sure that everybody is very clear about what this is and what it isn’t. Clearly, in the future, if we have anything to deal with uniform laws, you will be tired of us before we’re done, because we will go through it in minutia. Because I had no idea that there was going to be so much concern. And that’s a lesson learned. I apologize.” 

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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