That was extraordinarily special.
With grins on their faces and pats on their backs, legislative leaders applauded Monday’s passage of a controversial bill dealing with international child support collection.
Lawmakers graced the Capitol for less than a day, called by for a special session to address the legislation, which died on the regular session’s final day.
The Idaho House passed the bill on a 49-21 vote in the late afternoon and the Senate followed two hours later, giving its approval on a 33-2 tally.
The plan’s critics believed its language troubling, warning the plan would reduce Idaho’s sovereignty and would subject Gem State residents to foreign court orders sans due process.
Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, fired back at critics. Hard.
“We did not abandon our beloved Constitution, either at the state level or at the federal level,” Hill said after reciting the final line of an email he received accusing him of just that. “We did a good thing yesterday.”
Gov. Butch Otter, who refrained from attacking the nine House members who voted against the measure on the regular session’s final day, said some opponents were working from similar legislation that never passed Congress.
“In some cases, they were working with the wrong information,” the governor said.
Four of the nine House members who originally opposed the bill flipped votes when the committee took up the revised iteration.
House Judiciary and Rules Committee Chairman Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, praised the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Tuesday for providing timely answers to lawmakers’ queries on the topic. Otter expressed similar sentiments.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, criticized the agency’s approach in the original committee hearing during floor testimony Monday and said he’d like to send DHW the bill for the special session. Moyle, who voted against the bill, did not attend Tuesday’s press conference.
Other critics offered different concerns about the bill, plus the process leading to its passage. Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said Idaho shouldn’t give in to “gangster” tactics deployed by the federal government to coerce states to accept certain programs or laws.
“Giving someone a choice with a gun to the head does not respect their sovereignty,” Nate said during his House floor speech Monday. The federal government threatened to yank millions in funds, money used to pay for domestic child support collection and emergency cash programs.
When asked about the federal government using coercive tactics, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, averted the question. “I don’t know how to answer that,” Bedke said. Because the child support issue involved all 50 states and several nations, Bedke added, Idaho had to accept language to promise uniformity and predictability.
Otter will sign the bill in the coming days, but can’t finalize the process until the measure hits his desk after administrative processes finish.
Leaders, including Bedke, praised the open and fair nature of Monday’s debate, but didn’t address Blanchard Republican Rep. Heather Scott’s complaints of censorship during the joint hearing. Scott, a vocal opponent, used a Facebook post to criticize Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, for the senator’s attempt to limit lawmakers to two questions during the meeting.
Lodge attended Tuesday’s press conference but did not speak.