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Legislature Votes to Pull Driver's License in Child-support Cases

Legislature Votes to Pull Driver's License in Child-support Cases

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah legislators gave their final approval Monday to a measure yanking the driver's license of people who fall behind in child-support payments.

The House voted 44-27 to approve a version of its bill that had been amended by senators, who wanted deadbeats to be able to appeal the loss of a license, first to a state agency and then to the state courts.

House Bill 15 now goes to the desk of Gov. Jon Huntsman, who hasn't made his position on it known.

The state Office of Recovery Services says it has a hard time enforcing child-support payments and wanted to be able to threaten to revoke a driver's license from any parent who is more than two months' late making payments.

A tougher version of the bill was killed last year with a tie-breaking vote by Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem.

This year the chief sponsor, Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, softened it up to give parents another 90 days to make amends or agree to a payment plan before losing a license. In the meantime they could drive on a conditional license to work, school or for visits with children.

Parents who remain in arrears could lose all driving privileges. The bill took its final shape on Monday with little debate in the House.

Fisher says it's for people who are "experts at hiding their assets."

"This is like the Rudy Giuliani approach to crime: catch it when it's small rather than wait when it grows too large," she said during an earlier debate last month.

It was not an easy vote even for sympathizers, who say divorce, child support and visitation rights often leave at least one parent feeling cheated by the court system.

One skeptic, Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, said the courts grant no mercy for parents who get sick or lose a job. Sometimes the custodial parent earns a lot more money than the one on the outside who is forced to pay, he said.

Fisher said deadbeat parents in Utah owe a combined $325 million in back payments and that the threat of losing a license "will provide a credible threat for those who are able to pay but refuse to pay."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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