Speaking of Sneaking In Legislation At the Last Minute
The end of the session is always a glorious display of what can get done when people in Jefferson City want it to get done. HB42/SB1, the education omnibus bill that paves the way to the privatization of public education by expanding charters and smoothing the path for children to transfer out of public school, was passed by the general assembly in a late night session last night. Here in the last few days of our legislative session we will see the agenda of the power brokers made plain. The bills that leadership crowed about at the beginning of the session will surely be pushed through. Then there will be efforts to move some of the more controversial bills, but these will be interspersed with sleeper bills that will quickly be dealt with while conference committees hammer the details of the challenging bills. One of these sleeper bills may be HB860, filed by Rep. Caleb Jones. The bill is deceptive in its simple claim to be about protecting the state’s ability to collect child support. But there is more to this bill than that.
First a quick bit of history. Vicky Davis wrote a great summary of the genesis of this issue.
“Over the past month, I’ve been working on an issue concerning uniform legislation produced by the National Conference of Commissions on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) – more commonly know as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). They are located in Chicago Illinois. The legislation written by the ULC is an update to The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act of 2008 (UIFSA). The requirement imposed on the states by federal extortion (withholding program funds) – is that all states must replace their existing law with the updated version of UIFSA. The updated version includes reference to an international treaty called the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance concluded at The Hague on November 23, 2007. Simply stated, what this legislation does is create a global system of Child Support enforcement under international law. It effectively transfers sovereignty of a process of government to a Special Commission appointed by the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
For over a century there has been a movement to build an international system of law that began with border issues between nation-states. Andrew Carnegie built the Palace of Peace at The Hague to provide a permanent location for the international Court of Arbitration that was established by treaty in1899. Taking our thinking about our country back to the late 1800’s, if the intent was to build an international system of law, the first order of business would have been to build a uniform system of national law first – and then to integrate that national law into the international system. The Uniform Law Commission was founded in 1892 and since that time, they have been writing uniform law for the states with the states bending to federal pressure – ceding their independence and ours to the collective that we call the Unites States. Regardless of the significance of the child support issue in terms of the big picture of things, the point is that the Uniform Law Commission has moved to the international arena and is writing law ceding the independence of our nation to the global collective centered in Europe.”
At issue is the “Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance” which was passed in The Hague in 2007. The Congress had seven years, since 2007, to incorporate the Convention Treaty into operation with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, an Act in operation in the United States since 1992 and twice updated. Just last year 2014 Congress wrapped the Convention into HR 4980, “The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act” and sent it to the states with the command that no debate, no modification of any of the substantive language and no ability to fully examine or question its impact on any state, would be allowed. States have 4 months to pass this language into state statute.
Seven years to prep, explain, test and advise the states as to what was coming and why. Seven years for those states to explain to the legislators and citizens, the need, the efficacy AND the lawfulness of such a bill, yet Congress did nothing in that time. Now states are being pressured to pass the bill quickly.
Thanks to nine brave legislators and several grassroots activists, Idaho was able to hold back this bill. I include a write up from one of the ID Representatives that stopped the bill in committee so that you may understand what is at stake.
Why Idaho SB 1067 Was Held In Committee: Concern has been raised about the Idaho House Judiciary and Rules committee holding SB 1067. Holding the bill was about protecting the due process and privacy rights of our citizens, and protecting the integrity of our state’s ability to study and analyze issues independent of the coercive threats of the federal government. On the surface, SB 1067 updates Idaho child support laws to recognize orders from foreign countries. It is, however, the product of a 2007 treaty. For the United States to participate, all 50 states must approve the exact language which is contained in SB 1067.
The federally mandated language in SB 1067 raises due process concerns. Courts in Idaho are required to accept foreign orders with only a few exceptions. Those exceptions include minimal requirements for notice and hearing; however, those rights are undefined and vary drastically from country to country. Our courts would be curtailed from looking behind those orders. One provision even bypasses court review and allows agency enforcement without court review.
Implementation of the treaty would open federal databases to foreign countries. An important child support enforcement tool is the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which includes the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), as well as access to information from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, VA, the Department of Defense, NSA and FBI. Regarding the threat to personal information, counsel for the Congressional Research Service expressed significant concern in a report of July 15, 2013. The report states: “The expansion of access to and use of personal information contained in the FPLS, especially in the National Directory of New Hires, could potentially lead to privacy and confidentiality breaches, financial fraud, identity theft, or other crimes. There is also concern that a broader array of legitimate users of the NDNH may conceal the unauthorized use of the personal and financial data in the NDNH.”
Finally, the federal government uses coercion to force approval of the bill. It has threatened states with the loss of existing child support funding and technical support on all other cases if the bill is not passed. In other words, the federal government, in its effort to compel adding a few foreign child support collections, is willing to impair all other child support collections to force compliance with its mandate. Idaho is not dismantling its child support system, the federal government is threatening to do that.
A few citizens who testified at the committee hearing raised concerns about SB1067 leading to enforcement of Sharia law in Idaho, which ended up as the major focus in news articles. That was not the reason for holding the bill. The bill and treaty have serious risks and flaws. It is not our choice to interrupt current child support enforcement. Rather, it is the federal government that is using children as collateral to force its policies upon Idaho and its sister states.
What the federal government has threatened is the immediate loss of all of its funding for the interstate portion already existing and operating for decades. Also, non-passage and any delay would immediately sever every electronic connection through the federal interstate system, completely disabling that state’s ability to process its interstate enforcement and maintenance orders with every other state. These heavy handed threats will be used by legislators to justify the unquestioned passage of the bill.
HB860 was assigned to committee in mid march but didn’t get a hearing until close to the end of session on April 29th in the Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee. To get it through the remaining legislative hurdles with the little time left would require a herculean effort. Given that Idaho legislators saw enough red flags regarding due process and international access to data, one would hope that Missouri legislators would also find reason to delay passage of the bill to facilitate better understanding of its impact.
So why mention a bill about child support payments on a blog about education? To understand that you need to look at this report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “Governance Models for National Standards and Assessments: Looking Beyond the World of K-12 Schooling,” June 2010. This report looked at the challenge of developing national standards, specifically who should do it. “This paper seeks to broaden the discussion around “common” standards and assessments in K-12 education by analyzing the long-term governance challenges such efforts pose and by identifying models whereby common standards and assessments have been created in other policy sectors.”
The paper doesn’t question the need for or superiority of having a set of national standards. It mostly looks at ways to obtain them.
“There are four essential questions regarding the governance of common standards in any policy domain:
- Who writes the standards?
- By what means is their adoption induced or coerced?
- How should progress toward meeting the standards be assessed? and
- What consequences (if any) should be meted out to states that fail to meet the established standards?”
Tuck in the back of your mind #4 which, in the domain of education, isn’t talking about having standard quality roads or standards for database management. It’s referring to having standards of performance for students and asking what penalties should be applied when students don’t perform as desired.
Fordham (p.6) goes on to describe various models for governance of standards showing Private Sector, Interstate and Federal Government as possible Initiators and then examples of Voluntary or Mandatory participation. It mentions ULC as a private sector initiator who can require mandatory participation. The only thing standing between ULC K-12 standards and the state own standards setting process s is that ULC’s process “by design focuses on resolving technical issues within the law where consensus already exists, and avoiding politically controversial topics.”
Were someone, say NGA or the UN, to convince ULC that there was consensus on common K-12 standards, maybe ULC would be the mechanism to force them through. Something to think about.