(Updated 7:10 pm)
The House Judiciary and Rules Committee voted 9-8 Friday afternoon to table a bill that would put Idaho in compliance with federal child support collection.
According to Idaho Child Support Program Director Kandace Yearsley said the bill’s failure means an immediate loss of more than $16 million in federal funds to the state of Idaho for its child support collection program. The federal government would also deny Idaho access to its child support enforcement tools that all states use to collect child support from parents who live in other states, and put into limbo another $30 million in funds for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which is tied to the state’s child support program. (Read our previous coverage of the bill here.)
The House can vote to reconsider a bill that has been tabled with two-thirds majority consent.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, would put 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.
Because of the Hague Convention involvement, committee members expressed concern about foreign governments overriding Idaho law with child support judgments. Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, expressed particular concern over Sharia law being implemented in the state, and whether the state would have the ability to challenge or review another country’s judgment.
Attorney Scott Keim, who answered committee members questions over the phone, said no foreign government or tribunal would have jurisdiction over any Idaho citizen unless the Idahoan actually moved to the country, and that the state and US constitutions would always override any judgment. He also pointed out there are no countries involved with the Hague Convention that are under Sharia Law.
Yearsley told the committee failure to pass the bill would make the state a haven for deadbeat parents who don’t want to pay child support, as Idaho wouldn’t have any way to enforce collection. Even if the state could replace the lost $16 million, Idaho would lose access to enforcement tools and information the federal government provides to all states.
After the committee took action, the Department of Health and Welfare sent out a press release urging constituents to contact lawmakers and ask them to reconsider.
““This is new territory for us,” said Richard Armstrong, director of the Department of Health and Welfare, in the press release. “We’ll work with our federal partners to determine the total impact, but this vote will make it nearly impossible for us to enforce child support like we should, so Idaho’s children are taken care of. The bottom line is that Idaho families may not receive their support money because we will not have the tools we need to make sure those payments are made.”
According to the press release, the Department of Health and Welfare currently receives and distributes $205 million in support payments for 155,000 children.
According to Yearsley, of those cases, just 97 have an international component.
“It’s much less than one percent of the cases,” she said.
“The Idaho House of Representatives just dismantled child support enforcement in Idaho,” wrote Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, online after the committee vote.
Those who voted to table the bill: Reps. Dayley, Luker, McMillan, Sims, Trujillo, Cheatham, Kerby, Nate, Scott. Those who voted not to table the bill: Reps. Malek, Wills, McDonald, Perry, McCrostie, Nye, Wintrow, Gannon.
Watch for updates as we get more information, and for more analysis, watch tonight’s Idaho Reports at 8 pm MST/7 pm PST on Idaho Public Television.