A possible factor in the House’s distrust

Much of the frustration today has been directed at the Department of Health and Welfare by House Judiciary and Rules Committee members who voted to table the bill and those who supported their efforts to thoroughly vet the legislation.

Part of that might be the department’s lack of history with the House committee.

Child support legislation is often sponsored by the Department of Health and Welfare, which normally sees its bills ushered through the legislature’s Health and Welfare Committees.

But if the bill deals with child support enforcement — a judicial issue — it can go through either the Health and Welfare committees or the Judiciary and Rules committees, said House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley.

“Typically, just standard child support enforcement goes through Health and Welfare,” Wood said. But if it’s a product of the Uniform Law Commission, it usually goes through Judiciary and Rules, he said.

Also, consider this: Of the 17 members of the House Judiciary and Rules Committee, seven are freshmen and five are sophomores. Of the nine who voted to table the original bill in April, four — Heather Scott, Ron Nate, Don Cheatham, and Ryan Kerby — are freshman, and two — Tom Dayley and Janet Trujillo — are sophomores. None of the nine serve on the Health and Welfare Committee.

Rep. Christy Perry, who had doubts about the initial bill but said later she had her questions answered, is the only representative who serves on both the Judiciary and Rules Committee and Health and Welfare Committee.

That’s not to say inexperience is the reason why this group voted no. But consider the high-profile health and welfare issues that have come before the House as a whole over the last few years — namely, the hotly debated state insurance exchange, which passed, and the Medicaid expansion proposal, which has yet to have a full public hearing and has been a non-starter among many House Republicans.

That lack of history might explain miscommunications between the department and lawmakers. During the joint meeting during the special session on Monday, Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong said he thought he had communicated with key players, but took responsibility for any misunderstandings.

Compare that to the Senate, where the legislation passed unanimously in March. Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge chaired the Senate Health and Welfare Committee for years, and has worked with Armstrong on several capacities. Four senators — Patti Anne Lodge, Marv Hagedorn, John Tippets, and Maryanne Jordan — serve on both Judiciary and Rules and Health and Welfare. Just two senators on Judiciary and Rules — Jordan and Mary Souza — are freshmen.

Department of Health and Welfare public information officer Tom Shanahan said he couldn’t think of any other issues that straddle both health and welfare and the judicial system.

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