The Idaho Legislature held a special session earlier this month to reconsider Senate Bill 1067, concerning child support services, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The federal government told every state, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and every US territory, that they must pass amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Security Act by the end of their legislative sessions or risk losing federal funds for their child support enforcement programs, according to the Idaho State Legislature.
They would also lose access to federal information portals that allow states to track parents who owe child support, according to the website.
The original version of the bill would have updated child support rules and regulations to keep Idaho in line with federal regulations, according to the Idaho Legislature.
The bill passed during the new session, House Bill 1, differed slightly from the original and does not make any major funding changes to Child Support Enforcement Services in Idaho, according to the Idaho State Legislature.
Gov. Clement Leroy “Butch” Otter called the session because he felt the legislature needed to resolve a conflict surrounding Senate Bill 1067, which nine members unexpectedly voted against during the state’s regular legislative session, according to KTVB.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Chairman Richard Armstrong said the original bill was not expected to be controversial, and that the special session was not expected, according to the Idaho Legislature.
“It was a huge surprise when it started to slow down when it got to house side, something we certainly didn’t expect,” Armstrong said.
Nine representatives from the Idaho House of Representatives voted against the bill because they felt the federal government was coercing Idaho into signing the measure, according to KTVB.
“My concern is the change in the game that they’re putting in this bill and expecting us to rubberstamp it without an independent analysis,” said State Representative Lynn Luker, according to KTVB.
State Senator Sheryl Nuxoll said the bill allows laws of foreign countries to influence Idaho policy, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Proponents for passing the bill argued that not passing it would cost Idaho funding, which would affect Idaho families dependant on Idaho Child Support Services, according to KTVB.
Ron Nate, representative for Bonneville and Madison counties, said Idaho would lose out on funding only because the federal government unfairly threatened removing $46 million from the Department of Health and Welfare.
Nate, a professor of economics at BYU-Idaho, said that even though the special session made important changes to the bill, the new version is not perfect because the federal government acted unfavorably.
“Should Idaho adopt whatever bill the federal government wants, whenever federal funding is threatened?” Nate said. “To do so would set a horrible precedence.”
The special session and the discussion about the bill made national news. ABC News, Fox News and The New York Times reported on the session.
“Through this whole process, I think Idaho set an example for other states,” Nate said. “We don’t have to accept federal mandates — or threats.”
Nate said state and federal governments should work together better in the future so they can pass legislation that both are comfortable with.
Harrison Scoville, a freshman studying Political said the federal government should have done things differently.
“Federal government is doing the right thing by handing it down to states for ratification, but they shouldn’t be threatening funding,” Scoville said.
Child Support Enforcement is an important part of Idaho’s public policy,” Nate said. “It works well and should continue to work well. When changes are proposed, it is important that legislators are vigilant in making sure that the program works and that new problems aren’t created at the same time. That’s what we did, and I think Idaho will be better for it.”