With only minimal opposition, the Idaho Senate Monday evening passed House Bill 1, 33-2, sending the "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act" to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his expected signature.
Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sherry Nixoll and Dalton Gardens Republican Sen. Brent Regan, who was sworn in earlier in the day to fill in for Sen. Steve Vick, voted "no."
Nuxoll questioned her fellow Senators that if they voted in favor of the measure, "Will we compromise our freedom and the very freedom of the children that we're trying to help?"
But Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis said, "At times we may not get it right but that is in the eye of the beholder. It's still a rather healthy process."
And Senate Minority Leader Sen. Michelle Stennett concluded by reminding lawmakers, "We're talking about people - about 416,000 people, 183,000 of them children - these are our friends and neighbors."
UPDATE: May 18, 5 p.m.
Nine hours after it gaveled a special session of the Idaho Legislature, the Idaho House voted 49-21 late Monday afternoon to approve House Bill 1, the so-called "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act."
The House quickly convened at 8 a.m. Monday, triggering a special joint session of the House and Senate Judiciary and Rules committees, which heard more than 4-and-a-half hours of public testimony before the House committee broke off from their Senate counterparts to vote on the measure (12-5), forwarding HB 1 to the full House.
Opponents echoed their arguments of the bill, with Rep. Heather Scott warning lawmakers that they were "entering international treaty language into Idaho books," Rep. Vito Barbieri comparing the bill to a "'paper mache' horse, covered with hundred dollar bills that we have brought into the building," and Rep. Mike Moyle accusing the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare of "not being truthful" about the bill.
"If it were me, I'd send the bill for the special session to the Department of Health and Welfare," said Moyle. "Our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves."
Ultimately, Barbieri, Moyle and Scott joined Reps. Ken Andrus, Judy Boyle, Don Cheatham, Sage Dixon, Terry Gestrin, Steven Harris, James Holtzclaw, Shannon McMillan, Ron Mendive, Steven Miller, Jason Monks, Ronald Nate, Pete Nielsen, Joe Palmer, Eric Redman, Paul Shepherd and Kathleen Sims in voting against the measure, which now heads to the Senate for an expected approval before going to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for his signature.
UPDATE: May 18 2:30 p.m.
Following four-and-a-half hours of conflicting, and occasionally emotional, debate, the House Judiciary Committee voted 12-5 to approve House Bill 1, the so-called "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act," thus reversing the same committee's April vote to table a very similar measure. The bill allows Idaho to align itself with federal guidelines overseeing the collection and distribution of child support from non-custodial parents.
"This bill has been discussed and re-discussed and re-discussed," said Boise Republican Rep. Pat McDonald, pushing back an effort from five other Republican lawmakers to table the measure again. "I know myself. I've probably read this bill four times."
Ultimately HB 1 passed through the House Judiciary Committee with five members, Reps. Don Cheatham, Shannon McMillan, Ronald Nate, Heather Scott and Kathleen Sims voting "no," sending the bill to the full House for its consideration.
ORIGINAL POST: May 18, 10:30 a.m.
Considering what a hurry the 2015 Idaho Legislature was in to adjourn and hit the bricks when it gaveled its session to a close on April 11, there was a fair amount of glad-handing at the Idaho Statehouse this morning as lawmakers came back for a special session, ordered by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, to take up an issue of child support that directly affects 416,000 Idaho men, women and children.
Tensions soon ran high, as a group of legislators doubled-down in their opposition to a measure that would align Idaho with systems, both federal and international, to collect and distribute support from non-custodial parents.
"I'm concerned that this is a violation to the U.S. Constitution," said Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard), who initially opposed the legislation and gave every indication Monday that she would oppose revised House Bill 1, dubbed the "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act."
In a May 17 letter to constituents, Scott accused the special session as being "the product of the federal government telling Idaho what to do, how do it, and when it needs to be done by."
However, Dick Armstrong, Director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, stood before a joint session of the House and Senate Judiciary and Rules committees today to tell lawmakers that the HB 1 is only about child support. In 2014, Armstrong said approximately $193 million in support for Idaho children had been collected and distributed in 2014. In addition to the 155,000 of those children currently living in the Gem State, there are 28,000 children out-of-state who depend on support from a non-custodial parent.
"I want to make it clear that House Bill 1 is good for Idaho. It ensures that parents are responsible and held accountable for the safety, well-being and health of their children," said Armstrong.
Scott pushed back against Armstrong's testimony.
"Is it not true that once the United States enters this treaty that any of your amendments to this revised bill would be worthless?" she asked.
Armstrong, who explained there are currently 16 bilateral agreements negotiated by the federal government with other nations, said the Idaho bill did not adjust any universal agreement but was designed to adjust Idaho code.
"The international treaty is nothing an agreement is nothing but an agreement between our nation and another nation. The actual workings of the collection and the distribution are our responsibility," he said.
When asked if his department should have been exhaustive when it first presented the issue to the same lawmakers a little more than a month ago, Armstrong said he would have taken a different tact.
"In retrospect, there are a number of things we would have done differently," said Armstrong. "Just because I say the words, doesn't mean you receive the words as I'm speaking them. I take responsibility for the miscommunication. In the future, if we have anything before you that have to do with uniform laws, you'll be tired of us before we're done."
With that, public testimony was launched. Citizens and lobbyists stood before the joint session to advocate for or against the measure.
"These are real dollars at stake here that pay for rent, put food on the table and pay for shoes for children in need," said Lauren Necochea, Director of Idaho Voices for Children. "The only threat here is the real immediate threat to children who depend on that support."
"The only danger we have here is the Department of Health and Welfare putting a target on the backs of children," countered Ronalee Linsenmann. "This is an end run around the Constitution."
"I am here in support of HB 1 because my husband and I are grandparents raising our grandchildren," said Renea Andersen, chair of the Treasure Valley Grandparents as Parents support group.
"This bill is not about child support, it's about extortion," said Bob Neugebauer.
Joint Session co-chair Sen. Patti Anne Lodge (R-Huston) limited public testimony to three minutes per person, but a long list of speakers was expected to fill much of the late morning.