Guest Opinions

Guest Opinions: Child support situation, endangered by misguided House colleagues, must be rectified soon

Editor’s Note: Following are excerpts of three Guest Opinions from members of the Idaho House: Democratic Reps. Melissa Wintrow and John McCrostie, and Republican Rep. Robert Anderst. All three objected to their GOP colleagues on the Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee for tabling a vote on SB 1067, which effectively put the state of Idaho’s child support payment system in limbo and thousands of clients in jeopardy. Gov. Butch Otter is considering a special session to get the state back on track.

REP. WINTROW

Child support is essential for thousands of Idaho’s children. Unfortunately, some parents refuse to pay child support. And the Idaho legislature is entrusted to protect children by ensuring that child support is paid by the responsible party.

However, House GOP members shirked their responsibility to Idaho’s children and parents by voting down SB1067, which updates the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UISFA), enacted by all states in the mid-1990s as a part of welfare reform. Holding “deadbeat” parents accountable for child support payments was a major reason for welfare reform, as it is a major cause of child poverty rates. My GOP colleagues have chosen to dismantle almost 20 years of programs and services designed to help eliminate poverty and hold people accountable for their actions.

In the waning hours of the last day of session, House GOP members voted down SB 1067 for reasons including irrational fears and their hatred of the federal government, but cloaked in “protecting” Idaho’s sovereignty. GOP legislators exploited political paranoia to advance their partisan values while ignoring 400,000 parents and children who rely on child support to buy groceries and keep their lights on.

Simply put, they claimed that Idaho’s state sovereignty was under threat because of this child support legislation. They claimed that the federal government is holding Idaho’s children hostage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once again, my colleagues are putting their own ideology ahead of the needs of Idaho citizens, and they are holding all of us hostage to their narrow beliefs. ... As a former Women’s Center director who worked with hundreds of single parents struggling to collect child support, this is one more example from this GOP-dominated Legislature of using paranoia and fiction to damage Idaho’s families.

REP. MCCROSTIE

While the committee did not end child support enforcement in Idaho, the ability to enforce existing laws is severely hampered when Idaho loses access to federal systems. Lack of compliance actually makes Idaho a safe haven for deadbeat parents.

SB1067 is straightforward. Acceptance of child support guideline changes does not subject Idaho to international laws; it brightens the path for existing agreements among the 50 states and certain international countries with which the U.S. holds standing treaties.

When someone in Idaho has a foreign CSE order, SB1067 clarifies the existing avenue to recognize that order. It protects Idahoans, most notably by allowing Idaho to refuse to recognize a foreign CSE order if “[r]ecognition and enforcement of the order is manifestly incompatible with public policy,” including if the foreign court failed to provide due process under Idaho and U.S. law. Idaho cannot get stuck enforcing an incompatible foreign CSE order. It just can’t.

Sharia law was mentioned repeatedly during the three-hour hearing. To falsely blame the media for accurately reporting public testimony and private emails is disingenuous at best.

Furthermore, the “Gang of Nine” appears to want to veto U.S. participation in the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support. And they chose not to alleviate their fears with further research.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, states that the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.” Under centuries-old case law, the U.S. Supreme Court has final say on state court and federal law matters, including international treaties entered into by the U.S. Global law cannot supersede U.S. law. Ever.

REP. ANDERST

The risks associated with abandoning the child support bill are serious and need to be resolved sooner rather than later. The only beneficiaries of this bill not passing are those parents who don’t voluntarily pay their child support. It has been reported that as much as 85 percent of annual payments to children in Idaho are involuntary payments. I’m not suggesting that those taking the lead in opposition to this bill want to protect deadbeat parents, but they have to understand that the result of abandoning this bill is just that. Without access to the federal portals, parents and children who rely on this information sharing for processing and enforcement are shut out.

As a sovereign state within the United States of America, we often work on an interstate and international basis to find ways of dealing with cross-jurisdictional concerns. Child support enforcement is one of those issues. Without interstate and international agreements, any noncustodial parent who leaves the state in which a court order has been issued becomes difficult if not impossible to find, and the order becomes difficult if not impossible to enforce. These agreements are negotiated in order to protect each jurisdiction as much as possible, while creating a system that can work for everyone. I understand the desire to protect Idaho sovereignty and I share it, but in this case the practical effect of this “my way or the highway” approach to a truly cross-jurisdictional issue can be chaos.

The legislators who have chosen to go out on this limb risk losing the entire system. Therefore they have a responsibility to specifically identify what they will do by mid-June to protect Idaho kids in every state and country where we currently collect and enforce payments.

We should be protecting Idaho kids, not placing them at risk. We should fight for the continued enforcement of Idaho laws in other jurisdictions. This is a system that has been working for almost 50 years. Congress passed this language unanimously, and so did the Idaho Senate. If changes need to be made, I’m open, but this has to be resolved soon.

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