COEUR d’ALENE — After clearing the Senate unanimously, a bill that would have kept Idaho’s child support enforcement system intact has been tabled by a House committee.
Now, according to Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, Idaho no longer has a way to track and enforce child support payments.
Some lawmakers voted in favor of tabling the bill because they were concerned that it could invite Sharia law into Idaho’s courts.
Malek said SB 1067 was designed to bring the state in compliance with federal guidelines in order to continue using the federal child support enforcement program.
“We really don’t have any independent systems from the federal government’s system,” Malek explained. “We have an agreement with the federal government to use a portal in their system to track and enforce child support for Idaho mothers and children.”
The federal system allows state regulators to track people who owe child support and make sure they are paying it.
“People move around to different states all of the time, and now we have no way to track them,” he said.
However, some lawmakers were concerned about how the federal system is tied by international treaty to several foreign countries as well.
According to the statement of purpose on the bill, last year Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act which includes the requirement for all states to enact the 2008 Amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act during the 2015 legislative session.
These amendments incorporate provisions of the 2007 Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance and will improve the enforcement of American child support orders abroad.
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, testified against the bill during a hearing in the House Judicial and Rules Committee.
According to Idaho Reports, Idaho Public Television’s Blog, Nuxoll was concerned that the treaty could be used to enforce Sharia law in Idaho.
She reportedly testified that the Hauge Convention Treaty on International Child Support included Bosnia and Albania, which “are Muslim-controlled countries … and they are governed under Islamic law.”
Nuxoll, who voted in favor of the bill in the Senate, said if she could, she would change her vote to a no.
Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, had the same concerns. She voted in favor of tabling the bill as well.
“We don’t need to invite foreign law into Idaho,” Sims said, adding Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, who is an attorney, reviewed the law and advised the committee to vote against it. “Rep. Luker is a very fine attorney, and I trust him.”
Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, also voted against the bill, as did Heather Scott, R- Blanchard.
Attorney General Lawrence Wadsen said on Friday that he has also reviewed the law and the legislators’ fears of inviting international law into Idaho are unfounded.
Malek, who is also an attorney, said the bill includes specific language that says Idaho does not have to enforce any child support order if it violates due process.
If the Legislature declines to adopt the amendments, the state would no longer be eligible for two recurring federal grants that help pay for the system.
One of those grants would strip $16 million from the state’s child support enforcement program and force a layoff of approximately 100 employees.
At least a portion of the other grant, which funds the $35 million Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, would be at stake as well. How much will be withheld from that grant is uncertain.
Malek said the Legislature now has to wait at least five days before it can vote to take the bill off the table and vote on it.
“There is absolutely no way to do it before we sine die,” he said, assuming that adjournment would occur Friday evening. “We could have a special session to do this if the governor calls one.”
Malek said when single mothers and children learn that there is no way for the state to help collect their child support, there is a strong possibility the governor will call a special session.
“Mothers already have a hard enough time chasing down child support under the current system,” he said. “This is just going to make it impossible.”