BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed newly passed child support enforcement legislation into law Tuesday and praised lawmakers who overwhelmingly passed the bill in a one-day special session Monday.
“It’s fine to speculate and important to question issues surrounding the relationship between the state and federal governments,” said Otter, who had called the special session that brought the lawmakers back to Boise. “But the bottom line is this legislation will keep many thousands of Idaho’s single parents and children from potentially losing the court-ordered support of noncustodial parents. In the end, I’m grateful that everyone got to voice their concerns and the process worked.”
He and top legislative leaders decried those who have been loudly claiming the child support bill is unconstitutional, despite assurances to the contrary from the state Attorney General’s office along with other state and federal officials. Twenty-eight states, including Washington, already have passed the measure to conform their child support rules to the latest federal regulations, including provisions of a 2007 international treaty.
Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill praised Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke for their “great work in taking an awkward situation and making the best of it in a special session.”
Hill shared the last line of an email he received that morning: “It says, ‘You shall be spurned and scorned all your days for your undermining and disloyalty to the Constitution.’ ”
Pausing, he said, “My thanks also has to go to the Legislature – legislators who overwhelmingly saw that the accusations that were being made, and are still being made, are bogus. We did not compromise our state sovereignty. We did not neglect due process. We did not breach confidentiality. We did not abandon our beloved Constitution, either at the state level or at the federal level.”
An Idaho House committee killed the original version of the bill on a 9-8 vote on the final day of this year’s regular legislative session.
Without passage of the measure, federal authorities informed Idaho it would lose $16 million in federal child support enforcement funds on June 12, plus access to all the federal tools, including wage garnishing and other programs, that it uses to enforce $205 million in Idaho child support payments each year. Plus, the feds warned Idaho it’d likely also lose $30 million in federal aid to needy Idaho families, from Head Start to welfare, because that funding is contingent on compliance with child support enforcement.
Opponents described the bill as federal overreach; Congress is requiring all 50 states to pass this legislation in order to ratify an international treaty that would make it easier for parents to receive child support funds across international borders.
Some of the nine lawmakers who voted the original bill down in April argued that it would open the door to allow Islamic law to trump U.S. law.
Four of the nine lawmakers who originally voted against the bill helped craft amendments and backed the revised version. But most of North Idaho’s lawmakers continued to oppose the bill, citing concerns about the Constitution and sovereignty.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong said his message to Idahoans after the special session was that the state’s child support enforcement system will continue to function without interruption now, and no payments will be endangered. The bill contained an emergency clause; it took effect as soon as the governor signed it.
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