It is nearly impossible to overstate the mistake made by nine GOP Legislators when they voted down funding used to enforce child support payments.

The best argument for the vote is found in this testimony by Russ Smerz.

Got it? Something about Agenda 21.

It’s important to note that House leadership (Reps. Scott Bedke, Mike Moyle, Brent Crane, John Vander Woude ) is to blame. The bill was passed by the Senate unanimously.  Then it sat in the House for three weeks before being brought to a vote on the last day of the session — when it was too late to fix the massive mistake.

And what a mistake it was. Now the only way to fix it is through a special session.

Click here to sign the petition telling to Gov. Otter to call a special session. 


Child support vote by Idaho lawmakers could cost $250 million, may require special session to fix

Gov. Butch Otter led the roster of Idaho officials Monday scrambling to assess a handful of conservative lawmakers’ last-minute vote Friday that now threatens $46 million in direct federal aid and more than $200 million in child support collections the state processes annually.

Hours before the Legislature adjourned for the year, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee voted 9-8 to reject federal child support rules. Lawmakers who opposed the measure cited fears that Idaho would have to enforce child support decisions by foreign jurisdictions, including those rendered under Islamic Sharia law.

Some held to that argument even after state lawyers and Health and Welfare administrators assured them there was no risk of that occurring.

The full impact of the vote was still being assessed Monday, but at least 400,000 Idahoans, including children, stand to be affected. Without a reversal, Idaho loses not only funding but all of the tools now at its disposal to police child support payments.

The only fix, officials said Monday, is for the Legislature to vote again, a fact that prompts expectations that Otter will call for a special legislative session.

The governor said in a statement Monday he was “concerned” that the nine lawmakers who voted in committee against the measure “put Idaho’s child support system at serious risk by killing (the bill).” Otter has scheduled a press briefing for Thursday.

Federal officials told the state Health and Welfare Department on Monday that Idaho’s child support bureau will lose $16 million in funding within 60 days without reversal. That is two-thirds of the child support division’s budget, program director Kandace Yearsley said.

Without a child support program in place, the state also stands to lose $30 million in temporary assistance to needy families, which covers such programs as Head Start as well as child care assistance for low income families. The Health and Welfare Department is looking at contingencies for the 160 workers in the affected division, which last year handled 155,000 child support cases.

The bill in question was considered routine and uncontroversial at first, involving state approval of a federal rule change that includes acceptance of an international treaty on child support. All 50 states must act to approve it and are in the process of doing so this year.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously March 20. Its hearing date before the House committee was twice put off at the request of several house lawmakers who wanted more information, Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, said Monday.

On April 1, Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and Lynn Luker, R-Boise; and Sens. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, met with Health and Welfare and the Attorney General’s Office staff to air their concerns, which dealt with Idaho potentially having to enforce child support decisions rendered according to Sharia law.

That meeting came six days after Barbieri hosted a lunch attended by a dozen conservative lawmakers titled “The True Face of Islam in Idaho.” The guest speaker was a conservative Christian pastor, converted from Islam, who spoke about the threat of Sharia law on American jurisprudence.

Lawmakers were advised at the April 1 meeting, and again in committee, that the legislation actually strengthened Idaho’s hand in dealing with foreign jurisdictions.

“What this legislation did is give us more security when it came to due process,” Yearsley said Monday. Enactment would give “Idaho courts the power to say this does not conform to Idaho law and so we’re not going to enforce it.”

Yearsley added: “There is not a country involved in this treaty that has Sharia as its form of law.”

Worse than losing the funding itself, Yearsley said, was the potential loss of access to federal tools to enforce child support conditions, such as access to databases and tracking methods.

Idaho currently ranks in the top 10 states for program efficiency, Health and Welfare Department spokesman Tom Shanahan said. The impact would dismantle the state’s system.

“It would take years to bring it back up.” he said.

The vote triggered a rare public spat among House Republicans. A statement from Luker, a member of the committee who voted to hold the legislation, was distributed over the weekend under the auspices of the Republican caucus, prompting immediate and angry disavowals from several Republicans. Luker said holding the bill in committee “was about protecting the due process and privacy rights of our citizens.” He said Monday his concerns were not about Sharia law and he disputed the claim that due process was strengthened.

“My concern is the change in the game, that they’re putting in this bill and expecting us to rubberstamp it without an independent analysis,” Luker said.

Committee chair Wills said he thought the lawmakers’ concerns were routine.

“I didn’t have the slightest idea that this wouldn’t go through. It’s turned into a nightmare,” he said. “I think we’re going to pay a terrible price if we don’t get it taken care of.”