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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho child support system at risk

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is expected to announce today whether he’ll call lawmakers back to Boise for a special session to address a crisis in the state’s child support enforcement system.

The problem arose after a House committee, on the final day of the legislative session last Friday, killed legislation to bring Idaho into compliance with federal rules. That included acceding to a 2007 international treaty aimed at easing collection of child support payments across state and even international boundaries. Members of a House committee objected out of concerns over state sovereignty and the potential of international and Sharia laws coming into play, and the bill died on a 9-8 vote.

“I am concerned that some members of the House Judiciary and Rules Committee put Idaho’s child support system at serious risk by killing Senate Bill 1067 in the waning hours of the 2015 legislative session,” Otter said on Monday. “We are analyzing the impacts of the committee’s actions and what they mean for the 400,000 people who depend on Idaho’s system.” 

Since then, Idaho has received a formal 60-day notice from the federal government that it will lose $16 million in child-support enforcement funds – and even worse, lose access to the federal enforcement system Idaho uses to enforce $205 million in support payments to Idaho children each year – if Idaho doesn’t bring its system into compliance. State Health and Welfare officials announced Wednesday that they received the notice Tuesday night, starting the 60-day clock ticking.

“Basically what they told us is there’s no turning back, as far as the feds really can’t do anything,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “They’re proscribed by law once we’re not in compliance.”

In addition to the $16 million – two thirds of Idaho’s budget for child support enforcement – the issue could jeopardize another $30 million Idaho receives under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The state would have to lay off 100 state employees.

Every state is being asked to pass legislation this year to ensure it’s in compliance. Twenty have acted; no other state has reported any objections to the legislation.

Otter has a news conference scheduled at 10 a.m. today to respond to this year’s legislative session, and his staff has indicated he’ll address the child support issue there.

In other developments on Wednesday, Shahram Hadian, a Christian pastor and former Muslim who was invited to address Idaho lawmakers by Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, on “The True Face of Islam” on March 26, told the Coeur d’Alene Press he takes credit for the rejection of the child support bill. Hadian, who lives north of Spokane in Chattaroy, told Idaho lawmakers that Muslims are trying to infiltrate and influence conservative Western communities. His claims drew outrage from Idaho religious and human rights leaders.

Also, the Bonner County Republican Women announced they’ll feature Hadian on Tuesday at a Sandpoint talk entitled “What would Idaho look like under Sharia law?” The group, which last month dropped its affiliation with both the Idaho and national federations of Republican women, which are associated with the Republican Party, said it’s expecting a crowd of 80 people at the Sandpoint Community Hall.