Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Measure Fights Deadbeat Parents

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Measure Fights Deadbeat Parents

Article excerpt

The House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a welfare reform package that would give the state "nuclear weapons" in the fight to collect child support from deadbeat parents.

The state's child-support enforcement agency could take away the parent's licenses to drive, hunt or work in certain professions. Companies that fire or refuse to hire a noncustodial parent, to avoid the hassle of withholding the parent's wages, could be fined.

Most of the new weapons were mandated by the Republican-led Congress under the welfare overhaul law known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Teresa Kaiser, head of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, calls those powers "nuclear weapons." During the four-hour debate Tuesday in the Missouri House, it was the minority-party Republican lawmakers who thought the state would be going too far. Rep. Marilyn Edwards-Pavia, R-House Springs, said the state should not focus only on suspending the parent's drivers license. She wants the state to have the option of simply restricting driving privileges. Her amendment passed 130-0. "Maybe they could restrict their driving to (going) to and from work," Edwards-Pavia said. "I don't want the fellas to have any excuse not to get to work, to earn the money to pay child support." Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, pushed to lighten the punishment on businesses that fire or refuse to hire a person to avoid the paperwork of withholding child support payments from that person's paycheck. Hartzler wanted the top fine to be no more than $150. The House concurred, 88-61. A House committee earlier had decided on fines of no more than $500. Hartzler said that was too high and would hurt small businesses. Hartzler said employers who fire someone to avoid the paperwork already can be sued for back wages, court costs, attorney's fees and the amount of child support that would have been paid. …

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