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Rep. Luke Malek: Idaho should resist politics of obedience

Rep. Luke Malek

In a rant on Twitter this week, Idaho Freedom Foundation “policy analyst” Parrish Miller wrote that in regards to court enforcement of familial obligations, “Philosophically, I remain unconvinced that such obligations exist.”

In the same tweet, he included a link to an article that states “[t]he law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.”

Given his apparent sympathy with the view that families have no obligation to keep a child alive, it should come as no surprise that Miller gave Senate Bill 1067, or as now widely known, the Child Support Enforcement Bill, a negative ranking on the Idaho Freedom Index.

The changes to Idaho law in SB 1067, he wrote, “will cause Idaho citizens to be subject to enforcement and penalties assessed by foreign courts,” and the bill “subverts the sovereignty of both the state and the nation, and subjects both Idahoans and Idaho courts to foreign courts and foreign support orders.”

This communication was released April 8, hours before a critical vote on the bill in the Legislature. In an example of the corruptive force of the politics of obedience, the wheels were firmly fixed on the political vehicle that irresponsibly killed the bill.

Money, in politics, is often accused of buying power. However, fear can be just as corruptive. Ironically, this group that has named itself “Freedom” holds policymakers hostage. For some, fear of voting against a ranking from the Freedom Foundation is crippling. The only way to demonstrate conservativism is through blind obedience to analyses like that for SB 1067.

The “Freedom Index” is an arbitrary tool used by the group to test obedience on a wide array of legislation. The foundation takes it upon itself to score every bill that comes through the Legislature, then sends an email out to legislators to let them know the score. At the end of the year, legislators are scored to show how obedient they have been.

This obedience flies in the face of the independence that Idahoans are known for, but the threats work.

SB 1067 passed the Senate unanimously before the Freedom Index ranking.

Tomorrow, the Legislature will convene for an extraordinary session to fix the mess created the last day of the ordinary session. While it is rare that an issue requires the governor to call the Legislature back, it is not rare that issues of huge potential impact are before the Legislature, and that critical roles of government are threatened by hapless votes of obedience.

SB 1067 made few substantive changes to Idaho law. It was more format changes than anything. However, by killing the bill, Idaho is now out of compliance with federal guidelines. In fact, due to the need to have international and interstate reciprocity, the entire nation would be impacted had this session not been called.

Lack of action would be extremely problematic for many reasons. First and foremost, it puts single parents out in the cold when it comes to irresponsible parties – deadbeat parents – who are not paying their fair share of child support. Idaho’s participation in the federal system is contingent upon following federal guidelines. If the state doesn’t follow the guidelines, then Idaho doesn’t have any ability to track parents when they leave or change jobs, move from state to state, or move out of the country. Furthermore, our entire system for garnishing wages and tracking payments, even from cooperative and willing parties, is attached to this same system.

Despite two days of testimony that clearly outlined the dire consequences and the necessary structure of the bill, nine members of the House Judiciary Committee voted without debate – and with the anti-child support analyst – to table the bill; a nonreversible motion.

Fortunately, this crisis of irresponsibility will soon come to an end because some of the nine have offered amendments to “fix” the bill. The governor and leadership in the Legislature have graciously allowed and shepherded a process to include nonbinding intent language into a new draft to give those few who want it a place to land on the correct side of the issue.

It is imperative that voters understand what happened, why the $40,000 taxpayer expense for an extraordinary session should not have ever been necessary, and how public awareness of legislative issues can prevent nonsense like this in the future.

Luke Malek is a 4th Idaho Legislative District representative.
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