Republican fearmongering over an alleged “sharia law” threat to child support payments may have just killed Idaho’s access to a vital deadbeat-tracking system—and the people most furious are fellow members of the Republican Party.
The state house’s judiciary and rules committee met Friday to vote on a measure that would make sure Idaho’s child support laws met federal and International standards. Legislator Luke Malek proposed taking the bill to a full house vote, but Republican state house representative Janet Trujillo asked to table it—effectively cutting off discussion and putting off a vote.
Her measure passed in a 9 to 8 vote, sealing the bill’s fate without any record of true objections. And, with it, the measure eliminated Idaho’s access to money and programs for retrieving child support from deadbeat parents in the process.
“That’s the tragedy of not having debate on it,” Malek says. “Nobody put anything on the record about why they wanted to kill the bill.”
“We don’t have any independent child support [system]. We don’t have any way of tracking parents, we don’t have any way of garnishing wages without the federal system,” Malek explains—not as a partisan opponent, but an exasperated Republican fighting with members of his own party.
Trujillo did not respond to requests for comment on the initial reasoning for tabling the law.
Idaho state senator Sheryl Nuxoll tried to stop the bill, fearing that some International courts “have recognized Sharia courts as quasi-courts” with regards to laws like this one—and that this could, in some instances, pave the way for Sharia Law in Idaho.
Nuxoll’s take simply isn’t true: None of the signatories of the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance are governed under Sharia Law.
And concerns about “Sharia Law” have been debunked by the state’s attorney general—a Republican himself—and dismissed in press releases issued by the state legislature’s Republican Caucus and GOP Governor Butch Otter.
The Republican-controlled state senate—where the GOP outnumbers Democrats 28 to 7—also passed the measure, despite hysterical objections from Nuxoll.
Instead, Malek says, “[Idaho] will be a haven for deadbeat dads. Anyone who changes a job, we will have no way of tracking [them].”
Tabling the law, Malek explains, puts off another vote by five days, meaning the earliest the legislature could revisit the legislation would be Friday. Doing so would require meeting the two-thirds majority burden to undo a simple majority vote. But the bigger issue is timing: the motion to table passed on the last day of the legislative session, and lawmakers are now on break until January.
That’s four months after the federal government threatens to yank access to the database and fine the state. This could mean deadbeat parents might go unperturbed by child support collectors in Idaho for a third of the year because of a loophole in state House procedure.
A call from the U.S. Office of Child Support and Enforcement informed the state’s health and welfare commissioner that in 60 days, the feds will cut $16 million in funding for Idaho’s collection services to start, and turn off its access to a federal database used for enforcing child support payments.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, bill opponent and state rep Kathy Sims said her concerns stemmed from allowing foreign legislation to influence Idaho, giving foreign governments access to U.S. databases, and letting the federal government encroach on Idahoan sovereignty—the first two of which, at least, experts insist are not grounded in reality.
“I’m an Idahoan and I’m a woman, and I know what sovereignty, opportunity and equality means, and I want that for my daughters and my granddaughters,” she told the Beast, obliquely referencing Sharia threats. “Foreign laws don’t treat women the same, and I don’t want that to become a problem in the future.”
Instead of adapting existing legislation, she wants to lease or buy the federal government’s tracking programs. “If all they’re threatening is $16 million for the first cutoff and $30 [million] for the next, that’s not a problem. Idaho has the money,” Sims says. “If they will not sell it to us, this is definitely a threat, isn’t it?”
Republicans who sought to keep the vital tracking system had one last chance—a procedural move that needed a two-thirds house majority—to bring the bill to a vote after the committee mishap, says chair Richard Wills. But, citing House rules, Wills voted against it bringing the bill back to life.
“My objection to it at the time was that it was out of order,” he says.
Still, he worries that the reasons for quashing the agreement were more ideological than real—an instinctual Republican distrust of the federal government.
“If we shut the system down, where we don’t have access to all these people—it’s going to be an enormous burden,” he says. “It’s going to be a lot more than $46 million worth of damage, I’ll tell you that.”
“For the most part, these people really do an excellent job, and I’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Wills says, he says of reasoning with stubborn colleagues. “But when the right answer is given and you refuse to accept it, that’s when it becomes an issue.”
And those citing Sharia Law—or even an overreliance on Idahoan State House procedure—will decide the fate of a state’s worth of needy children.
“This is unfathomable, to think about that nine people—and it was nine people only—were able to dismantle our child support system,” Malek says.