Sunday, December 5, 2021
Dec. 5, 2021

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Idaho governor signs disputed child support bill

The Columbian

BOISE — Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed newly passed child support enforcement legislation into law on Tuesday, and praised lawmakers who overwhelmingly passed the bill in an 11-hour, one-day special session he called them back to Boise for on Monday.

“It’s fine to speculate and important to question issues surrounding the relationship between the state and federal governments,” Otter said. “But the bottom line is this legislation will keep many thousands of Idaho’s single parents and children from potentially losing the court-ordered support of non-custodial parents. In the end, I’m grateful that everyone got to voice their concerns and the process worked.”

He and top legislative leaders decried those who have been loudly claiming the child support bill is unconstitutional, despite denials from the state Attorney General’s office and state and federal officials; 28 other states, including Washington, already have passed the measure to conform their child support rules to the latest federal regulations, including provisions of a 2007 international treaty.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, putting his arms around the shoulders of Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke, said, “If there’s anyone who doesn’t know it yet, these are great leaders.” He praised their “great work in taking an awkward situation and making the best of it in a special session.”

Hill shared the last line of an email he received that morning: “It says, ‘You shall be spurned and scorned all your days for your undermining and disloyalty to the Constitution.’ “

Pausing, he said, “My thanks also has to go to the Legislature — legislators who overwhelmingly saw that the accusations that were being made, and are still being made, are bogus. We did not compromise our state sovereignty. We did not neglect due process. We did not breach confidentiality. We did not abandon our beloved Constitution, either at the state level or at the federal level.”

“We did a good thing yesterday,” he said. “We did a good thing. There are a lot of people to be thanked. But I want to thank the citizens of this state for their support, and I want to thank those that they elected, those 105 legislators, who came and did good work yesterday.”

An Idaho House committee killed the original version of the bill on a 9-8 vote on the final day of this year’s regular legislative session, prompting Otter to call lawmakers back for this week’s do-over. Without passage of the measure, federal authorities informed Idaho it would lose $16 million in federal child support enforcement funds on June 12, plus access to all the federal tools, including wage garnishing and other programs, that it uses to enforce $205 million in Idaho child support payments each year. Plus, the feds warned Idaho it’d likely also lose $30 million in federal aid to needy Idaho families, from Head Start to welfare, because that funding is contingent on compliance with child support enforcement.