The legislative special session on the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act came and went in a blur – that is if you didn’t have to witness the hours of testimony firsthand. Those that endured horror stories about what would happen to innocent women and children if they did not receive child support payments from former spouses. Members of the committee were led to believe that former spouses could face violence if they tried to “self-collect,” from deadbeat spouses. Opponents of the bill offered sound constitutional arguments, but to no avail. In retrospect, would one really expect legislators to allow the child support payment system to go off the rails over the proper notion of federalism? The federal government picks and chooses which laws to enforce and which to ignore – like immigration enforcement.
Rather than consider this a defeat those of us dedicated to liberty must use this whole sorry episode as a teachable moment. Proponents of the bill dismissed the notion that Idaho citizens would be unduly subject to intrusions by foreign courts and that this was not really an issue of sovereignty. However, in simple terms had the federal government asked Idaho to consider adoption of this act with no penalty for not doing so, would we have had this special session? The nine Idaho Representatives who voted against the original bill were publicly castigated, but look who issued the threats – the federal government. $16 million in federal funding would have been pulled and access to federal enforcement tools along with the likely withdrawal of $30 million of funding for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
So Idaho was with faced with naked federal blackmail with children as the victims. The Idaho legislature needs to remember this episode if Medicaid expansion comes up again. Recall that Health and Welfare Director Armstrong publicly stated that Idaho could opt of out of Medicaid expansion if the process did not go as planned. In view of what just happened, imagine if Idaho takes the bait on expanding Medicaid with a 90% federal payment component and then the federal government reduces its payment sharing? What threats will the federal government issue then? If you believe that this reflects paranoia, consider that the federal government is now threatening both Florida’s and Texas’ Medicaid funding based on their refusal to expand Medicaid. Florida is contemplating suing the federal government over its attempt to coerce the state into expanding Medicaid.
While federal coercion is not new, those of us who view Idaho as a sovereign state should come to the conclusion that in order to govern our own affairs we must establish as much fiscal independence from Washington as possible.