Sharia law concerns jeopardize child support collection bill

A bill concerning child support enforcement is in trouble in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee — and it may have major financial implications for the state.

What’s at risk? If the Legislature doesn’t pass Senate Bill 1067 this legislative session, the state will immediately lose millions in federal money for its child support enforcement program, according to a February 25 letter sent from the Department of Health and Human Services to Idaho Child Support Program director Kandace Yearsley.

“A State must have an approved State IV-D plan in order to receive Federal funding under title IV-D of the Act,” wrote program specialist Nancy Mathieson of the Office of Child Support Enforcement. “(A) State plan disapproval would result in immediate suspension of all Federal payments for the State’s child support enforcement program.

That money — more than $16 million — is two thirds of the state’s appropriation for child support enforcement. In her presentation to the House Judiciary and Rules Committee Thursday, Yearsley said that means the layoff of more than 100 state employees and termination of contracts, including those with attorneys across the state, as well as impacts on other state programs.

Other federal funding is at risk, particularly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money, according to an e-mail sent to committee members from Legislative Budget and Policy Analyst Jared Tatro.

“(I)f this bill is changed or fails, Idaho will then be out of compliance by not having an approved IV-D Plan, which is a condition for eligibility for a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant,” Tatro wrote in an April 8 e-mail to lawmakers. “The potential impact of losing the TANF block grant is about $30.4 million.”

Tatro told Idaho Reports the state may not lose the entire TANF block grant, though it’s impossible to know what the federal government may withhold.

So what does the bill do? Senate Bill 1067 puts Idaho in compliance with federal regulations pertaining to the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, putting into Idaho’s existing law provisions of the 2007 Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance.

The idea: To get uniform child support enforcement across the nation and in other countries, allowing governments to collect child support from parents regardless of where they live.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously in March.

What’s the concern? In the House public hearing, a handful of people (including Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood) testified that the legislation might make Idaho citizens susceptible to foreign countries’ laws.

“There is no specific language in the bill that would protect the rights of those dealing with parentage, child supprot and support orders from a foreign country that would contradict our laws here,” Nuxoll said after saying she would change her Senate vote if she could.

She then pointed out that the Hague Convention Treaty on Recovery of International Child Support includes Bosnia and Albania, “that are Muslim controlled countries…. and they are governed under Islamic law.”

During the public hearing, committee members asked questions specifically concerning foreign tribunals and Sharia law, asking if Idaho would have to enforce it.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation took exception to the bill as well. “Senate Bill 1067 subverts the sovereignty of both the state and the nation, and subjects both Idahoans and Idaho courts to foreign courts and foreign support orders,” wrote Freedom Foundation analyst Parrish Miller.

Is it a valid concern? According to Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, no. The bill includes specific language that says Idaho does not have to enforce any child support order if it violates due process.

What’s next? The committee is scheduled to meet on the bill on Friday, subject to call of the chair.

For more, including an interview with Malek on the bill, watch Idaho Reports, Friday at 8 pm MST/7 pm PST.

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