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Idaho Senate Leader on Legislative Special Session: "We Did a Good Thing Yesterday"

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Sen. Brent Hill and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Sen. Brent Hill and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter

This morning, all eyes were fixed on Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. No, he has not (yet) signed HB1—a bill that would allow Idaho to continue to use the federal child support payment tracking portal—into law. But following heated testimony on the parts of the public and some lawmakers during a one-day special legislative session, the governor was visibly relieved during a Tuesday morning presser that HB1 will reach his desk for his signature in the coming days.

"Today is a day of comfort," he said.

Monday, the Idaho House of Representatives voted 49-21 in favor of HB1, sending it to the Senate, which voted 32-2 in favor.

Otter described the special session as "passionate" and "involved," where concerns about privacy and federal overreach were addressed to ensure that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare could continue processing child support payments uninterrupted. The governor said that those concerns were not always expressed in a "gentlemanly or gentlewomanly manner."

"The discourse involved in public policy isn't always pretty," he said.

House Speaker Scott Bedke said those concerns stemmed from confusion about a failed piece of federal legislation relating to that international agreement. In the end, however, the final votes in the House and Senate showed lawmakers were able to see the proverbial forest through the trees and pass the legislation for Idaho kids, one in four of whom benefits from child support payments.

"There were obviously differences of opinion on the issue, but the central issue was collecting child support for the kids that keeps parents responsible," Bedke said. 

During the special session, some lawmakers pointed a finger at Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong, alleging that during the regular session he'd given them incomplete information on the issue. Otter and Bedke defended Armstrong, saying the Health and Welfare director had answered every question posed to him by lawmakers.

"The burden always falls on the implementation," Otter said about Armstrong.

But lawmakers say they continue to receive negative feedback from Idahoans about the bill. In an email Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill said he received this morning, one angry Idahoan wrote, "You shall be spurned and scorned all your days for undermining the Constitution."

"We did not abandon our beloved Constitution" Hill said. "We did a good thing yesterday."

Otter said that HB1 is still "going through the process," but that he would sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.