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Owe child support? No hunting and fishing, Utah bill says

Bill to restrict hunting, fishing licenses to those owing child support advances to Utah House

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Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bill that would force Utahns to prioritize paying child support over hunting or fishing is advancing through the Utah Legislature.

The bill, HB197, cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday after little debate and a unanimous vote in the House Judiciary Committee. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

“While this looks like a hunting and fishing bill, this is about child support,” said Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, who supported the bill. “This is about getting support to children.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, seeks to bar the state from issuing annual hunting or fishing licenses or permits — which typically cost about $38 for a license and about $10 for a big game draw application — to someone who is delinquent on at least $2,500 in child support payments.

Lisonbee said nearly $400 million in child support is currently uncollected in the state of Utah, affecting over 112,000 children. Her bill seeks to spur delinquent parents to pay up — and it’s a tactic Lisonbee said works in other states like Pennsylvania.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources supports Lisonbee’s bill after she narrowed it to have a smaller financial impact. An earlier version of her bill would have impacted more than 21,000 people who have purchased a hunting or fishing license and are delinquent on their child support. That would have reduced state revenue and federal matching funds of over $1.5 million a year.

A narrower version of the bill would reduce that to about $400,000 a year by allowing that once parents make the effort to set up a payment plan with recovery services, their eligibility for a hunting or fishing license would be restored. Lisonbee said that would reduce the number of those impacted to about 6,700 Utahns.

No lawmaker or member of the public spoke against Lisonbee’s bill during Monday’s hearing. It found easy support with a unanimous vote from the committee.

Snow, an attorney, said at times in his legal practice, an ex-husband who had fallen behind on child support payments would express frustration with having to “pay this money to his ex-wife.”

“And I would say to him, ‘This is not your ex-wife’s money, this is your children’s money,” Snow said.

Snow said the bill may “interfere” with some “sportsmen,” but the priority should be children first.

“Parents should take the responsibility to take care of their children, regardless of whether or not they’re separated,” Snow said.