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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Tears and stress,’ ‘We’re all socialists today’

In continued testimony on HB 1, the child support enforcement bill:

Stephanie Wierschem of Kuna told lawmakers it was the first time she was publicly sharing her story. Her ex-husband was on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted deadbeat dads list. “He owed over $100,000 to my four children,” she said. But the ex evaded paying in every way possible, changing jobs and eventually fleeing to Bermuda. “Without child support, my kids went from an upper income family to a needy low-income family,” she said, her voice breaking. “I had many sleepless nights, along with tears and stress. I worked three jobs to provide for my kids. … My four children waited over 12 years for their father to pay child support.”

Wierschem said her story had a happy, though belated ending: “He was apprehended coming back into the United States from Bermuda at the airport in Atlanta, Georgia.” That only happened with the support of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney for Idaho, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Health & Welfare, “and many other agencies.” She urged the lawmakers, “Be the voice for the children, they have no voice.”

Frances Stern, an attorney who handles child support enforcement cases, said without the enforcement system, “Their children would have no way to collect what was rightfully ordered by this state.” Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked her, “Every single one of us here is absolutely encouraging child support to be the best and most efficient it can, but our job is to create good and sustainable public policy. Would you agree?” Stern responded, “I would agree, and I think you are, by passing this bill.”

Alexis Gebauer told the committee, “I’m here today to support my children. I’m a single mom. … After budgeting, without child support, I am left with $133 a month that is to feed my children, that is to clothe my children, and that is to provide them with a normal life where they can play sports,” and do things like attend a YMCA summer camp. “There are things that are imperative for their growth that child support allows them to do.”

Dar Moon of Custer County said, “Unfortunately it appears to me that this is about big government … spending millions of dollars trying to collect thousands.” He said, “I would ask that we all reach deep into our pockets to help those children in need, but please don’t do it with the coercion of tax. Let me feel charitable in my own kind.” Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, told him, “It is not welfare and it is not tax dollars. It’s people unfortunately having to be forced into meeting their obligations.” Moon responded, “I stand corrected.”

Cory Chappell said, “I promise you, if you do not vote no on this, we will be knocking on your office door.” He said, “I am absolutely against it.”

Tom Munds said, “We’re all socialists today, aren’t we, under the banner of freedom and in the name of security. It’s really kind of sad to see that so many of us now have kind of reduced  the Constitution to a relative sort of document where we can all get our own determination on what it means.” He said, "The creation of new laws is not going to make people better."

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, told the committees, "I am against this bill simply because I consider it unconstitutional." He said, "Who has control of the family? Is it the federal government, or is it the state of Idaho? ... It's our job to get this done right. I'm against this. ... If we need to toughen up the laws of Idaho, so be it, let's do it, and let's go after the deadbeat dads like we can in Idaho if we really want to. But we have the power and the ability to do that because we was elected by the very people out there that want this problem solved."

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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