A brouhaha over the child support enforcement bill killed on the final day of this year’s Idaho legislative session is dividing the House GOP.
First, Former Rep. Cindy Agidius, communications director of the House Majority Caucus, emailed an editorial by Rep. Lynn Luker “regarding the concerns surrounding” Senate Bill 1067 – the child support enforcement bill.
Agidius’ email went to all members of the press covering this year’s legislative session, plus all 56 Republicans in the House, on the evening of April 11. It didn’t take long for the reply-alls to start hitting from lawmakers.
At 1:26 p.m. last Sunday, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, wrote, “Representative Luker does not speak for Idaho or me. Scuttling 1067 without debate was heavy-handed opportunistic theatrics at the expense of single-parents and children, the most vulnerable in our society. I do not support the erratic behavior that will lead to the dismantling of our child support system, nor the implication that this mockery of a legal analysis in any way represents our Republican caucus.”
Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, responded at 2:22 p.m. “I for one don’t know the specifics of this legislation. I can’t speak to the merits of these arguments, however, I will not allow Mr. Luker to be perceived as speaking for me or the caucus. Because this was distributed to the press as a response to the action of holding this bill, it is imperative that the press know that this is a limb that Rep. Luker is out on by himself at this time. Rep. Luker may be right, he may be wrong, but on an issue that affects so many and so drastically he does not speak for me, especially at this time.”
Luker was one of nine members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted, in a 9-8 vote, to table SB 1067, the child support enforcement bill that had earlier passed the Senate unanimously, after Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll and members of the John Birch Society raised fears that it would subject Idahoans to Sharia and foreign laws, by acceding to a 2007 international treaty. The bill was killed despite warnings from the state Department of Health and Welfare that without it, Idaho will lose access to the federal child support enforcement system – endangering its system for enforcing $205 million a year in child-support payments to Idaho children. Officials also have warned that the state could lose up to $46 million in federal funds and have to lay off 100 state employees.
At 3:03 p.m. Sunday, Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, weighed in with this: “I certainly hope this was not represented as a Majority Caucus response. If it was, it should be immediately withdrawn. Rep. Luker is entitled to his opinion, legal and personal. It is not my opinion, and I do not want to be associated in any way with it. By the way, can anyone explain why we still have a caucus media director? The caucus has no way of meeting. There should be no information being presented to the public representing anything about the caucus.”
The next response, from Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, came at 3:11 p.m. With a winking smiley-face, he wrote, “Well if there is a conference committee please don’t put me on it.”
At 6:16 p.m. on Sunday, Agidius sent an all-caps email to the press saying Luker’s piece was just his opinion, adding, “IF THERE HAS BEEN ANY CONFUSION AS TO WHOSE OPINION THIS EDITORIAL WAS, I OFFER MY SINCERE APPOLOGIES.”
Crapo, Risch agree with Simpson
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both joined the majority in a 92-8 vote in the Senate last week to pass HR 2, legislation to permanently take care of the “doc fix” Congress has annually been passing on Medicare reimbursement rates. It also provides a two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions in payments to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for roads and schools.
It’s the same bill that earlier passed the House overwhelmingly, but kicked off an open war of words between Idaho 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, who proudly supported the bill and joined the majority, and Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted “no” and blasted Simpson not only for supporting the bill, but also for everything from his integrity to his personal habits.
Labrador maintained he supported the SRS extension and it would have passed as a stand-alone bill, but opposed the “doc fix” legislation as too costly.
Crapo and Risch praised the “doc fix” bill and said budget commitments made in a House-Senate conference committee have assured that the costs will be covered.
Like a number of other lawmakers on the House Judiciary & Rules Committee, Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, sent a guest opinion on the child support enforcement mess to her local newspaper last week. One problem: Much of Trujillo’s piece was actually, word-for-word, what Luker wrote in his earlier guest opinion.
When the newspaper accused Trujillo of plagiarism, she responded in an email, “ ‘Not plagiarized when you have permission to use.’ ”