Souza speaks about session

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Senator Mary Souza R. Coeur d’ Alene, speaks at the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans meeting Thursday at Fedora Pub & Grille. Souza gave a rundown on the past legislative session that made recent headlines.

COEUR d'ALENE - Sen. Mary Souza's first legislative session was controversial from the start of the session and it ended the same way.

Souza, R-Coeur d'Alene, was the guest speaker at the Reagan Republicans' luncheon meeting on Thursday, where she discussed several hot topics the Idaho Legislature dealt with this year.

She said the Legislature dealt with a number of topics ranging from "historic horse racing" machines to webcam abortions.

Souza said the first really big issue this session was the "Add the Words" campaign.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community wants Idaho to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's anti-discrimination law.

Souza said the House State Affairs Committee took up the issue right away and held four days of hearings and heard testimony from more than 200 people over 22 hours.

Eventually the House committee decided not to add the words, but promised to work with the leadership of the LGBT community to come up with compromise language that can be introduced in the next legislative session.

The last issue the Legislature dealt with was equally controversial, and came from the same House State Affairs Committee - the child support bill.

"People are calling it the child support bill, but it's really about so much more than child support," Souza said. "It is about the federal government getting into a treaty with foreign governments."

That bill was essentially killed in committee just a few hours before the close of the legislative session last week.

"We have some really important concerns with this bill," she said. "So we might get called back."

In fact, Gov. Butch Otter hinted Thursday morning that a special session may be called to reconsider the bill because there is too much at stake if a solution cannot be found.

The bill, SB 1067, would have amended Idaho's child support laws to come in line with an international treaty that would allow states to work with other countries to collect child support payments from non-custodial parents who move to another country.

By refusing to pass the bill, the Legislature put about $46 million in federal funding at stake, plus it will preclude the state's ability to use federal tools to collect and process more than $200 million in child support payments for 155,000 Idaho families.

The federal Office of Child Support and Enforcement sent a letter this week to the governor granting Idaho 60 days to find a solution, or $46 million in funding will be cut off and the federal portal Idaho uses to track and collect child support payments will no longer be available.

The Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday that it is sending warning letters to all 155,000 families that receive state child support assistance.

Souza said she is glad the committee killed the bill because it needed a lot more scrutiny. While she voted for it in the Senate, after her committee had its concerns addressed, she said members of the House had additional questions that Health and Welfare could not answer.

She asked Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, to explain what those concerns were because he sat on the committee and voted to kill the bill after two days of hearings on the subject.

"First your question on Sharia law, we had three of them show up the first day and tell us you have to pass this or you're going to have how many millions of kids suffer," Cheatham said, adding they had a second day of testimony and then a third day where he questioned the Attorney General's Office about some of his concerns.

"One of the things brought up was that none of the countries have Sharia law, and I said 'OK, so if we pass the bill we go under the treaty, what about if a year from now, five years, 10 years from now these countries go to Sharia law, what is our recourse?'" Cheatham said. "He didn't have an answer for that."

Cheatham said the committee also had issues with the grants and Article VI of the Constitution.

"I asked him if we pass this, what is the supreme law of the land? Idaho state law, Idaho Constitution, the U.S. Constitution or the treaty?" he said. "He was on the other end of the line and it was quiet for about 30 seconds and said 'The treaty would become the supreme law of the land.'"

Souza thanked Cheatham and said the objections were not about Sharia law.

"It never was about Sharia law," she said. "It is about the sovereignty of U.S. law and protecting our moms and kids from situations with foreign governments."

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