Idaho is at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal child support funding after Legislature conservatives killed a measure that would have brought the state into compliance with federal rules. The opponents were concerned the legislation could have forced the state to uphold child support rulings made in other countries under Islamic law—a contention others said was baseless. Health officials said yesterday that without a revision they stand to lose access to programs that process payments and track down scofflaws, in addition to $46 million in federal payouts. Without the federal tools, parents who are owed child support will have no means to receive it. About 80% of payments are taken from paychecks, but noncompliance would prevent Idaho from making such collections.
The conflict started last week after a House committee narrowly rejected a bill that had sailed through the Senate. The vote came after state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, a Cottonwood Republican, testified that federal regulations incorporated an international agreement that would subject the state to Sharia law. None of the nearly 80 countries involved in the treaty is under Sharia law. But Nuxoll and other skeptics said some involved nations informally recognize Sharia courts. The state AG's Office told the Rules Committee, however, that the bill allowed judges to reject cases that don't meet the state's standards. Even so, the committee voted 9-8 to nix the compliance bill, and the legislative session adjourned hours later, throwing the funding and programs into question. Since the issue affects the state budget, legislators could be called into a special session to revisit the matter. Idaho health officials plan to meet with US Health and Human Services reps this week. They expect to have 60 days to find a solution from that point. (Read more Idaho stories.)