Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

House advances legislation that cracks down on deadbeat parents

March 21, 2006


— Parents who are behind in their court-ordered child support payments can forget about getting a Kansas hunting or fishing license under a Senate-passed bill gaining first-round House approval Monday.

Final approval that is expected today will return the measure to the Senate to consider changes made by the House.

"It's a good deal because it's another avenue where the state can check on court-ordered child support," said Rep. Lynne Oharah, R-Uniontown.

Kansas isn't in compliance with federal child support enforcement requirements because state law only prohibits the issuance of lifetime hunting or fishing licenses - rather than annual licenses - when a person is behind in child support payments.

"We are being pushed by the feds to increase our child support collections, so we need this," said Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, D-Wichita.

Kansas ranks 37th nationally in enforcing court orders for child support, according to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

About 54 percent of children owed money receive the full amount, while the average deadbeat parent owes $1,127 to their children. SRS says for the one-year period ending last June 30, child support collections were $156 million.

Most child support payments in Kansas go through SRS to the parent primarily responsible for the child's care. SRS estimates the new measure would mean 1,000 deadbeat parents paying an average of $350 when the program is in full operation in a year, or an additional $350,000.

The bill would require the SRS to periodically give the Department of Wildlife and Parks a list of Kansans behind in child support payments. When a person applies for a hunting or fishing license, his name would be cross-checked with the SRS.

SRS spokesman Mike Deines said the agency would decide how much a person must be behind in payments before being denied a license, although he said it probably would be in the $500 range. He said a parent could get a hunting or fishing license if they pay what they owe or set up a payment plan. "It is just a matter of making arrangements to pay off their debt or paying what they owe," Deines said.

Hunting and fishing licenses aren't the only items being targeted by legislators this year to get the attention of deadbeat parents.

Last month, the House sent the Senate a bill that says anyone owing more than $500 in child support could be targeted by SRS to have their driver's license suspended until the debt is paid or a payment plan set up. owed. SRS, which must give parents 30 days notice before a license is revoked, says the bill would generate an additional $200,000 in child support collections.


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