BOISE, Idaho — Idaho is at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal child support funding after conservatives in the Legislature killed a measure that would have brought the state into compliance with federal rules.
Conservative lawmakers were concerned that passing the legislation could have forced the state to uphold child support rulings made in other countries under Islamic law.
Health officials said Monday that without a revision they stand to lose access to programs that process child support payments and track down scofflaws in addition to $46 million in federal payouts.
The conflict started last week after a House committee narrowly rejected a bill that had sailed through the Senate after Sheryl Nuxoll, a GOP state senator from Cottonwood, testified that federal law incorporated an international agreement regarding child support payments, a deal called the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance.
None of the nearly 80 countries involved in the treaty — which the U.S. entered in 2007 — are under Sharia law. But Nuxoll and other skeptics said some nations in treaty informally recognize Sharia courts. They added that the provisions of the deal wouldn't leave Idaho with the authority to challenge another nation's judgment.
The criticisms tapped into the conservative streak that often pops up in Idaho's Republican-controlled Statehouse, where lawmakers frequently balk at federal mandates.
Rep. Luke Malek, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, however, called the debate an example of "heavy-handed opportunistic theatrics at the expense of single-parents and children."
He and others said the bill's opponents don't represent Idaho's GOP caucus.
The Rules 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, lawmakers could be called into a special session to revisit the matter.
The governor's office released a statement Monday, saying officials were "analyzing the impacts of the committee's actions and what they mean for the 400,000 people who depend on Idaho's system."
The state Attorney General's Office has said federal compliance wouldn't interfere with Idaho's rights as a state.
Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden both are Republicans.
Idaho Health and Welfare Department officials plan to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services representatives this week. They expect to have 60 days to address the matter from that point.
"This is a new experience for Idaho," the department said in a statement Monday. "We have been told the federal support for Idaho's Child Support Program will end if Idaho is not in compliance."
Without federal tools, parents who are owed child-support payments will have no means to receive them. Idaho uses federal programs to process child support payments.
About 80 percent of payments are taken from paychecks, but noncompliance would prevent Idaho from making such collections.