Shared Parenting Initiative takes a hit
Olson is unequivocal: "If the measures pass, the state could not certify that its programs meet federal requirements, and North Dakota would lose about $71 million in federal money for those programs during the 2007-2009 biennium."
Olson refers to "the measures," but the only measure that has garnered enough signatures to likely make it onto the ballot is Mitch Sanderson's (www.ndspi.org). Here is Clause # 3 of the initiative, whose full text is available at the above Web site:
"Child support payments and allocation of child support obligations will be determined according to the parenting plan, and will not be greater than the actual cost of providing for the basic needs of the child(ren)."
That's the problem, Olson says. The idea behind the clause is to make child-support payments depend more on what the child needs and less on what the non-custodial parent earns. But "federal law requires courts or administrative agencies, as neutral third parties, to determine child support using state guidelines that must be based, in part, on a percentage of all of a noncustodial parent's income," Olson writes.
Then she offers this quote: "Due to the gravity of the consequences that may result, we urge you to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that initiated measures are not enacted that would render the state's statutes out of compliance with the federal law." That's from a letter to a North Dakota state senator by Thomas Sullivan, regional administrator of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Will North Dakotans approve a measure that would result in such a big cutoff of federal funds? I don't think so ... and I'm guessing the initiative's supporters are preparing a response even as you read this. They'll need a good one.