Alaska May Not Be the Worst


There’s not much question that the Alaska Legislature is often Neanderthal in its approach to far too many issues. You don’t have to look further than the current session to find all the evidence you want in support of the premise.

But Alaska may not be the worse. And no, it may not even be Texas. It’s probably Idaho. WC has some reason to be concerned about the Idaho Legislature; more on that in a future blog post.

Exhibit A would be the Idaho Legislature’s decision not to adopt the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. The international convention would address the increasingly serious problem of international child support enforcement and, to a lesser extent, international enforcement of alimony. If we assume a deadbeat dad with a significant child support obligation in Alaska, all he has to do to avoid payment is to got to work for Exxon in Norway or Brazil and his wages won’t be touched. It’s effectively impossible to collect money the money. The result, all too often, is children who live in poverty or near-poverty, a substantial increase in the burden on the state to provide support, and sometimes a permanent underclass.

The Convention, when adopted, would allow enforcement of child support across international boundaries. It’s a good thing. It solves any number of problems.

But the Idaho Legislature worked itself into a froth over the possibility that – gasp – sharia law could become involved and – gasp, again – enforced in enforced against Idaho citizens. The Idaho Legislature didn’t have any actual evidence that any nations enforcing sharia law are a party to the Convention. They didn’t have any evidence that sharia law, if it were used to create a child support judgment in another country, would be unfair or deny due process in some horrific way. They didn’t even know if sharia law permitted either child support or alimony (it is silent on both). No, the only problem was in the imaginations of the state legislators, a fearful, ignorant reaction to a non-existent problem.

The folly of the Idaho Legislature didn’t end there. The federal government, as it often does, has a carrot and a stick. The stick is that if a state doesn’t adopt the treat, the federal government cuts off its funds to the state. Federal officials reported that $16 million in funding for Idaho’s child welfare enforcement system would be cut within 60 days, dismantling the state’s child support enforcement arm. Idaho would not longer be able to garnish a deadbeat parent’s pay. Another $30 million in block grants could be cut too, including federal money for Head Start, the preschool program for low-income children.

All for an imaginary problem. All for an unthinking, unreasoned reaction to a conservative bugaboo, “sharia law.”

WC isn’t attempting to defend sharia law here; in far too many ways, it is antithetical to Western law and founded on premises WC finds abhorrent. Although WC notes Christianist doctrine is sometimes alarmingly similar to the worst of sharia. But the Convention doesn’t impose sharia law on anyone; it helps collect child support and alimony, to the benefit of all.

So, yeah, maybe the Alaska Legislature isn’t the worst.