BOISE – The Idaho Legislature passed a new version of a bill to keep the state’s child support enforcement system in operation.
Though most of North Idaho’s lawmakers voted no during Monday’s special session, enough legislators rejected fears that the bill was a sell-out of the state’s sovereignty.
Idaho, like all 50 states, has to conform its child support enforcement laws to federal regulations to continue to participate in interstate and international enforcement of child support orders; this year’s version of the update includes conforming to a 2007 international convention. Twenty-eight states, including Washington, already have conformed; the rest still are pending, but no others have refused.
Without the bill, federal authorities told Idaho it would lose $16 million in federal child support enforcement funds next month, plus lose access to all the federal tools it now uses to enforce $205 million a year in child support payments for 155,000 families. The state also was informed that $30 million in aid to needy families would be in jeopardy.
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was among the most outspoken opponents of the bill. “We are throwing away our state sovereignty and due process for efficiency – that’s absurd,” she said.
She was among the House members who killed the earlier version of the bill on the final day of this year’s regular Idaho legislative session. The rejection once again earned Idaho politics the national spotlight and prompted the special session. A series of amendments to the bill won over four of the original nine opponents from the 9-8 House committee vote.
“I do believe these amendments we’ve added for protection of Idaho citizens … are put there for cover for the four legislators to change their votes,” Scott said, drawing an objection from Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who helped write the amendments.
“That’s an aspersion on those of us who have been engaged in good faith to try to resolve an issue,” he retorted.
“This vote is truly a statement of values,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. “Do you support kids and families? Or do you support decisions based on fear and disinformation? Please think who you’re supporting.”
One in four Idaho children receives child support payments, which come from the non-custodial parent; the state enforces the payments, of which only 16 percent are made voluntarily. Enforcement tools include attaching the absent parent’s wages and their tax refunds.
Brent Regan, a former Coeur d’Alene School Board member and vice-chairman of the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, served as a substitute for Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, and testified against the bill both in a public hearing and on the floor of the Senate.
The House and Senate judiciary committees had just heard from several single mothers who offered tearful testimony about the impact on their kids when their ex-husbands didn’t pay their child support.
“A lot of talk has been about protecting children,” Regan told the lawmakers.
“I have a son who’s in boot camp right now,” training to serve overseas with the Marines, he said. “I worry about some foreign court ordering some protection order from some claim from some woman somewhere and my son not having the same equal protection that everybody in this room has, and I object to this.”
He said his concern is that the United States has high standards for due process, and he doesn’t believe they’ll apply to international child support enforcement under the bill. The amendments to the bill included additional due process guarantees.
Gov. Butch Otter, who helped broker the amendments with the bill’s opponents and legislative leaders, has scheduled a press conference today.
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