Hadian: Short-term loss in child support worth long-term gain for liberty

When Shahram Hadian, a pastor from Washington, visited Boise to give an anti-Islam presentation, a few lawmakers asked for his opinion on the child support bill, which had already passed the Senate at that point.

In an interview with Idaho Reports, Hadian said he didn’t play a major role in the child support legislation’s failure. “Who am I? I’m nobody,” said Hadian, a former Washington gubernatorial candidate who travels to discuss what he sees as the evils of Islamic culture.

But his comments on the child support bill struck a chord with at least one lawmaker.

On March 31, Hadian sent Rep. Vito Barbieri and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll his concerns on the legislation, according to an e-mail obtained by Idaho Reports through a public records request.

“There is NO WHERE in this bill that specifies that no foreign law or ruling in a foreign tribunal can be used in Idaho if that foreign law violates our constitutionally protected rights,” Hadian said. Hadian also mentioned two signatories on the treaty — Bosnia and Albania — are predominantly Muslim.

“Would the rulings of these “foreign tribunals” be accepted in the jurisdiction of the State of Idaho?,” Hadian wrote. “If such, would this not open the door to foreign law and particularly Islamic law (Shari’ah) in Idaho tribunals?”

During an April 9 House Judiciary and Rules committee hearing, Nuxoll testified against the legislation, reading parts of Hadian’s letter verbatim.

You can read Hadian’s letter, as well as an Idaho attorney general opinion refuting many of those concerns, at this link.

While speaking to Idaho Reports, Hadian had other concerns — namely, this is federal intrusion that violates state sovereignty. Hadian objected to states being told to pass the law verbatim, as well as Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter possibly calling a special session and asking lawmakers to pass the bill.

What does Hadian recommend? Take a stand on this, he said, and call the federal government’s bluff. Work with other states to establish child support collection reciprocity that isn’t dependent on the federal government.

If the feds follow through take away funds and tools to enforce child support collection, it’s still worth it, Hadian said, adding the short term hardship for families is worth it.

“I would say to those families, would you rather have short-term gain or lose our liberty long-term?” Hadian said.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare processes approximately $200 million in child support payments annually. Without access to federal child support collection tools, the department won’t be able to process and distribute those payments to Idaho families without rebuilding its system from scratch, director Richard Armstrong told Idaho Reports.

After the House committee tabled the bill, parents who depend on those child support payments wrote to lawmakers to express their dismay.

“I am extremely frustrated to hear that you and Rep. Sims did not support SB1067, the Child Support Bill,” wrote one Coeur d’Alene constituent in a note to Nuxoll obtained through a public records request. “You are not representing the best interests of the citizens, specifically single mother’s (sic) like myself who depend on the child support (from) our former spouses.”

“This is a bigger issue than just the so-called $200 million,” Hadian said. “The fact that the federal government can act in this dictatorial manner toward a sovereign state demanding that a state pass a law verbatim without any input from the state to me is part of the tyranny we’re seeing from this federal government.”

For more on our interview with Hadian, watch Idaho Reports, 8 pm Friday, on Idaho Public Television, or watch online at idahoptv.org.


Hadian downplays connection to child support bill, but acknowledges objections

A Washington pastor is downplaying his connection to a child support legislation being tabled by the Idaho House of Representatives, though he did discuss his concerns with the bill after a Tuesday morning presentation in Sandpoint.

About 100 people, plus a handful of reporters, turned out to hear Washington pastor Shahram Hadian give a presentation to the Bonner County Republican Women on Islam in America.

Hadian recently made headlines in Idaho for outlining his concerns to Idaho’s Senate Bill 1067, a child support compliance legislation that the Idaho House Judiciary and Rules Committee voted to table in the final hours of the legislative session.

The federal government has told Idaho if it doesn’t pass the legislation by mid-June, the state will lose at least $16 million in federal funds for its child support program, as well as federal tools that aid in child support enforcement both in- and out-of-state.

Hadian told Idaho Reports lawmakers asked his opinion on the legislation, and while he had concerns with it, he wasn’t a major player in the issue, and he objected to media saying he took credit for the bill’s failure.

In an interview after the presentation, Hadian said the governor has no authority to press the legislature to pass the bill, and encouraged lawmakers to continue to hold off on the issue and find a state-based solution to child support enforcement.

The Tuesday presentation focused on what Hadian called “the fallacy of a ‘Peaceful Islam,'” with the pastor drawing on history and excerpts form the Quran to tell the crowd that Islam “is a culture of death” that, among other things, requires submission and teaches its followers that martyrdom is the only way to salvation.

Hadian told the crowd he isn’t anti-Muslim — “They need to be rescued out of the darkness,” he said, adding many Muslims don’t fully understand Islamic doctrine.

“However, I am anti-Islam,” he said.

Hadian didn’t acknowledge the specific legislation during his presentation, though he did encourage attendees to contact lawmakers and ask them to put protections against international laws and court orders in Idaho code and the constitution.

In a letter outlining his objections to the bill, Hadian raised concerns about the legislation, which the federal government is requiring all 50 states to pass in 2015 or risk losing child support funds. (You can read our Q&A here.)

Hadian was concerned the legislation would “open the door to the application of foreign law in the State of Idaho.”

“There is NO WHERE in this bill that specifies that no foreign law or ruling in a foreign tribunal can be used in Idaho if that foreign law violates our constitutionally protected rights,” Hadian wrote.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, forwarded Hadian’s concerns to the Idaho attorney general’s office, which provided counterpoints to each of those concerns to Malek.

“These provisions specifically operate to prevent an Idaho court from having to apply foreign law. Idaho courts would not be applying foreign laws under the statute rather they would be agreeing to honor a court order from a foreign jurisdiction if they determine that recognition is appropriate,” wrote Deputy Attorney General Scott Keim.

You can read both Keim and Hadian’s letters here. 

After his presentation, Hadian said he put more weight on the opinion of constitutional scholars he’d consulted than the attorney general’s opinion. (We’ll have more of our interview with Hadian later in the week, and on this week’s Idaho Reports.)

The presentation drew protesters who criticized Hadian’s objection to the child support bill. The small group held signs outside the Sandpoint Community Center that read “Stand Up For Tolerance And Child Welfare” and “I Choose Children Over Fear.”

Throughout the presentation, Hadian also attacked the Obama administration and the media, claiming the latter hasn’t properly presented his side of the story and paints him as anti-Muslim and bigoted.

Hadian didn’t allow reporters to record or take pictures of his presentation, though he did grant an interview to Idaho Reports after the meeting.

We’ll have more as the week progresses.


Labrador initially denied involvement in child support fight

While Congressman Raul Labrador says he has no position on the child support legislation tabled by the House Judiciary and Rules Committee, he acknowledged to Idaho Reports he does have concerns about due process and the enforcement of international court orders in Idaho.

“It’s always a concern. You always have to worry about the due process rights that other countries have,” said Labrador, an immigration attorney. But while he had concerns, he declined to say if he supported Idaho passing the bill.

Idaho Reports requested a comment from Labrador last week on his involvement with the child support legislation; his staff denied Labrador had any involvement outside of calling Rep. Lynn Luker, a member of the committee who voted to table the legislation, to offer support as a friend.

Labrador gave us a brief phone interview Monday afternoon after the Associated Press linked him to Luker’s op-ed outlining his concerns with the amendments. You can read the Associated Press report by Kimberlee Kruesi via Betsy Russell’s blog here.

Labrador had no involvement with the issue until after the committee voted to table the bill.

As far as his position on the legislation that passed Congress last year, “it passed on voice vote so I don’t remember anything about the bill,” Labrador said. “It’s something that wasn’t even debated.”

And how would he vote now? Labrador didn’t answer, saying it’s up to state lawmakers.

Labrador said he advised Luker to keep the message simple and not get “lost in the weeds.” He also said that he has offered his staff’s support to lawmakers, telling House Speaker Scott Bedke they can contact his office if they have any questions.

“That’s what we’re there for,” he said.


So what exactly is Senate Bill 1067?

Let’s have a chat about what’s in that child support bill — the one the House Judiciary and Rules committee tabled right before the Legislature adjourned last week.

Yes, it’s complicated. We know you have questions, and we do too.

What’s the issue?: This legislation clarifies the process through which states and countries determine jurisdiction over child support cases — basically, which court makes the decision.

What’s not in the bill: Anything to do with child custody issues. This is solely about child support, aka the cash and medical care.

What’s at stake? Basically, Idaho’s ability to collect and process child support.

The federal government told every state, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and every US territory, that they must pass amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Security Act by the end of their respective legislative sessions, or risk losing federal funds for their child support enforcement programs, as well as access to federal information portals that allow states to track parents who owe child support.

Why is it needed?: The uniform language makes sure everyone is on the same page.

This not only allows other states and countries to collect child support from noncustodial parents who live in Idaho, it allows Idaho to work with other states and countries to collect child support for Idaho children.

When would this clarification come into play?: When parents move around. If the mother has custody of a child, and the father moves to Texas, the mother would file for child support in Idaho, and the courts in Texas and Idaho would work together to enforce that child support order. That might be as simple as processing the payments if the father complies with the order, or could involve wage garnishment if he’s noncompliant.

It can get pretty messy, though. Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, gave me this example: Let’s say an Australian exchange student comes to Boise State, gets pregnant, and moves back to Australia. The hypothetical father of this hypothetical child never left Idaho. She can’t file a child support claim against the father in Australia, as the father never left Idaho and therefore never subjected himself to Australia’s laws. The mother would have to file child support in Idaho, as that’s where this whole baby-making business originally went down.

If the father were to visit the mother in Australia, that’s a different story. He might get served with a child support order while there. He could appeal that decision in Australia. Once you leave Idaho, Rice said, you voluntarily subject yourself to that jurisdiction and their laws.

Go ahead and replace “Australia” with any state, and you get the idea of how this works. In order for a state or country to have a say in the child support order, the person getting served would have had to at least visited that jurisdiction.

It gets particularly complicated when parents move around. If a mother and father had the child in Idaho, then split up, and the mother moved to Arizona and the father moved to Montana…. you get the idea of why clarity is necessary.

What happens with a child support order involving a country that isn’t involved in the treaty? The parent with custody is likely out of luck. So let’s say an Idaho woman gets pregnant from a Sudanese man who was visiting Boise. She could file for child support in Idaho, but it’s almost certain she wouldn’t receive child support if he went to Sudan, never came back and didn’t want to pay.

Idaho Reports chatted with Sen. Grant Burgoyne, who worked in the child enforcement office in the 70s, before the states had uniform child support enforcement. Burgoyne said it was much more difficult — sometimes impossible — to collect child support payments from parents who left the area. That, he said, is the system Idaho risks reverting to.

Where did the opposition come from? You’ve heard about the Sharia law comments. While that dominated the committee discussion and public testimony, lawmakers on the committee expressed concern after the vote about due process, whether Idaho citizens would be able to appeal decisions, privacy concerns regarding personal information in the portal, and whether Idaho courts could review those orders before enforcing them.

“Courts in Idaho are required to accept foreign orders with only a few exceptions,” wrote Rep. Lynn Luker, a Boise attorney who voted to table the legislation in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee.  “Those exceptions include minimal requirements for notice and hearing; however, those rights are undefined and vary drastically from country to country.”

Rep. Ron Nate said in an op-ed that he was dissatisfied with answers to questions on data security in the federal information portal and on the terms of the treaty itself. “The bill was thoroughly vetted. The committee heard over three hours of testimony and questions. Many of the answers were unsatisfactory and incomplete,” Nate wrote. “Right-minded committee members were resistant to being bullied into accepting a bill without compromise, without proper protections, and without good, clear answers on what Idaho would become subject to, so it tabled the bill.”

Why did the initial media coverage focus so much on Sharia law? The motion to table the bill during Friday’s committee meeting didn’t allow for debate, meaning most of those concerns were never aired until after the vote.

Are those concerns valid? According to Sen. Rice, no. He said the new language simply clarifies the practices that Idaho uses now to collect and enforce child support with other jurisdictions. If anything, the amendments would make child support cases that span multiple jurisdictions even easier, and give more protections to states.

In this video excerpt, Rice explains more about jurisdictional issues that pop up in child support cases.

What was the timeline? In 2007, the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance updated an international child support agreement.  The United States Uniform Law Commission (more on that later this week) approved the language in 2008. It passed both the House and Senate in 2014 (no word yet on the reason for the 6-year lag) and was signed by the president on Sept. 29, 2014. The federal government notified state legislatures that they had to adopt the language in their respective state codes in 2015.

In Idaho, the legislation was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 12, but wasn’t passed by the Senate as a whole until March 20 — relatively late in the session. It didn’t have a public hearing in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee until April 9, the second to last day of the session, and was tabled late in the afternoon on April 10, hours before the Legislature adjourned.

How much money are we talking about? More than $16 million in child support enforcement money, which makes up two-thirds of the state’s child support program budget, as well as the potential of losing about $30 million in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grants, which is tied to Idaho’s child support compliance. That’s not the only money at stake, though. The Department of Health and Welfare’s child support office processes about $200 million in child support payments annually. That’s money that goes directly to families and supports children.

So let’s expand on the implications of that. Without child support payments, a lot of single moms and dads will struggle to take care of their children, said Director Richard Armstrong of the Department of Health and Welfare. That could lead to more of those families being dependent on government aid. That means even more cost to the state — cost that we can’t fully predict right now, Armstrong said.

Armstrong had strong words about the impacts and the effects on his department in this Idaho Reports interview excerpt. “All of this rhetoric and anxiety doesn’t put groceries on the table,” Armstrong said. “It’s absolutely wrong for the legislature to get in the middle of the household budget when it’s their money, when it’s the household’s money, not the legislature’s money.”  (You can see more of his interview on this week’s Idaho Reports, which airs 8 pm MST/7 pm PST, Friday on Idaho Public Television.)

Can’t we find the money for the program elsewhere? Hypothetically, yes. That’s what Rep. Ron Nate (who voted to table the bill) argued in an op-ed published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “Fortunately, Idaho’s revenue is $88 million dollars ahead this year — we can afford noncompliance,” Nate wrote.

So what’s the issue? It’s not just about the money. To enforce child support orders, both in-state and elsewhere, Idaho and the other states use a federal information portal. Idaho also uses federal tools to process the payments.

Can’t Idaho enforce child support without the federal government? Realistically speaking, no.

Let’s set aside the international cases for a second — those make up a fraction of one percent of Idaho’s 155,000 child support cases.  Idaho would still have to make enforcement agreements with each state individually, said Armstrong. Frankly, those states have no incentive to deviate from the program they’re using now — i.e., that federal portal and processing system. The state uses that database and portal for in-state cases as well. So to rebuild that system and make individual agreements with every jurisdiction from which Idaho collects child support is time- and cost-prohibitive.

Will the federal government actually follow through with its threat? That’s a good question — and it’s one a lot of skeptics are asking, including Rep. Ryan Kerby, who voted to table the legislation. Kerby told the Idaho Press Tribune he didn’t think the federal government would actually follow through and make Idaho kids suffer.

But look at the letter Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter received from the Office of Child Support Enforcement. Commissioner Vicki Turetsky makes it pretty clear she’s not messing around.

This passed through Congress, so where is Idaho’s Congressional delegation? The legislation passed the House on a voice vote, which isn’t recorded. Congressman Mike Simpson supported the amendments, according to his spokeswoman Nikki Wallace. Dan Popkey, spokesman for Congressman Raul Labrador, told Idaho Reports “At the time there were no objections raised to the bill,” but had no comment on where Labrador stood on the issue. The amendments passed the Senate through unanimous consent; Neither Sen. Mike Crapo nor Sen. Jim Risch objected.

“This bill passed with unanimous support in the Senate and without any objection in the House because it is imperative that we protect children from sex trafficking and ensure dead beat dads have no safe haven,” said Congressman Mike Simpson in a statement.  “I unequivocally stand by my support for the bill and with those in Idaho who believe the Legislature needs to fix this issue.”

Will it affect other states if Idaho doesn’t pass these amendments? At very least, it means Idaho could became a haven for deadbeat parents, said Office of Child Support director Kandace Yearsley. That means if a parent in Wyoming is trying to collect child support from a parent in Idaho, there’s no guarantee Idaho would be able to deliver.

As far as the system as a whole, Idaho Reports is looking into whether Idaho’s failure to pass the amendments will invalidate the treaty. “The failure of just one state to pass (the amendments) will have a negative impact on every state (child support) program in the country and the families they serve,” Turetsky wrote.

What’s next?: Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has a few options. He could ignore the issue and see if the federal government will follow through on the threat. (At his post-session press conference on April 16, Otter said that option is off the table.)

He could also work on a waiver — a move that would give the Legislature and state more time to consider the amendments, but would still risk losing access to the funding and portal.

Finally, he could call a special session of the Legislature so they can pass the amendments. That would have to happen by mid-June, according to Turetsky. Otherwise, the federal funding goes away starting July 1.

And remember, even if Otter calls the special session, there is no guarantee lawmakers will pass the bill. At the April 16 post-session press conference with Otter, House Speaker Scott Bedke said he’s engaged with members of his caucus on the issue all week. Otter said his office has discussed the issue with lawmakers, too. “We’ve engaged a lot of the misgivings and misunderstandings and issues surrounding that bill that quite frankly were not factual,” he said.

At the end-of-session press conference, Otter said he wasn’t yet prepared to say what he’ll do.

We’ll continue to follow this issue. Stay tuned.


The clock is officially ticking on Idaho’s child support law

The Department of Health and Welfare posted a notice from the federal government that Idaho has 60 days from today to get its child support law into compliance with federal amendments to avoid losing access to federal child support collection tools and at least $16 million in federal funds.

Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, wrote in the letter to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter that the federal government will cut off the funding, as well as access to funding and federal enforcement authorities, starting July 1, 2015.

“If Idaho’s… state plan is found to be out of compliance, you may request reconsideration of the decision pursuant to regulations at 45 CFR 301.14,” Turestsky wrote. “Federal funding, howeer, will be suspended and may not be stayed pending reconsideration.”

The state may receive those withheld funds in a lump payment if the decision is overturned, Turetsky said.

Turetsky noted the that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding is also at risk, as those payments are tied to the state’s child support compliance.

“I urge your state to take the necessary steps to enact UIFSA 2008 promptly in order to come into compliance with federal law,” Turetsky said. “We continue to offer technical assistance to help you with this important endeavor. The failure of just one state to pass UIFSA 2008 will have a negative impact on every state (child support) program in the country and the families they serve.”

You can read the letter to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter here. 


20 states have passed child support amendments; No hiccups so far in other states

We know Idaho declined to adopt the amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. but what did other states do?

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare put up a blog post with a map showing which states have enacted the amendments. The map originates from the Uniform Law Commission, which also lists which states have introduced the legislation and which haven’t yet brought it up.

There are a few things to remember:

1. The federal law was signed by President Barack Obama last fall, and gave states through their respective 2015 legislative sessions to adopt the amendments. Some states, like Idaho, have part-time legislative sessions that begin at the start of the year and are relatively short. That gives those states a compressed time frame in which to consider the amendments. Others, like California, have full-time legislatures, and have all year to address and consider the amendments without immediately risking losing their funding.

2. Just twenty states have adopted the amendments so far. According to Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan, the federal government polled all of the states to see the status of the bill, and none anticipate any hiccups in passing the legislation.

I took a random sampling of other legislatures’ bill statuses online. Oregon’s version of the legislation is currently on its Senate second reading calendar; During their public hearing last week, no one signed up to testify against the bill. In Kansas, the legislation passed the Senate unanimously, and will be taken up by the House when they return to the statehouse on April 29. Across the board, the amendments received favorable recommendations from every committee in every legislature I checked.


Reynolds acting head of Dept of Administration

Following Teresa Luna’s resignation, Keith Reynolds is the acting head of the Department of Administration.

Reynolds has been the department’s chief financial officer since 2012, said admin department public information specialist Jennifer Pike. Prior to that, he was a senior financial analyst for the state Division of Financial Management.

“He will be a great asset,” Pike said.

Reynolds was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced Luna’s pending resignation in March, saying she would serve as the Department of Administration director until the Legislature adjourned. In a March interview with Idaho Reports, Otter was tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding Luna’s departure, though he did say she offered to resign.

Luna has not spoken to the media since the announcement of her resignation. In an e-mail obtained by Idaho Reports through a public records request, Luna told her staff that “it has been the greatest pleasure of my professional career to work with each and every one of you.” She went on to say she would work with each of the department’s divisions and programs to discuss “a path forward.”

Pike said the department expects Otter to appoint Luna’s permanent replacement in coming weeks.