October 31, 2014

Lawmaker drops controversial child support proposal

A state lawmaker has decided to drop a controversial bill dealing with setting child support payments, after questions surfaced about how the bill was written and who it would benefit.

The legislation from state Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) had been scheduled for a hearing before an Assembly Committee Wednesday morning, but the Oconomowoc Republican announced Tuesday that he was pulling back the proposal.

Kleefisch, who declined to address media questions on the decision, released a statement saying he withdrew the legislation “After careful deliberation and consulting with my colleagues.” He added that “While I am frustrated by the amount of misinformation the bill has encountered, I believe a fair and equitable child support system, one that fundamentally recognizes the value of both parents in the upbringing of a child, is an important issue and one that warrants serious conversation.”

The bill would have capped the amount of income that can be considered when setting child support payments at $150,000. The measure drew controversy after drafting notes revealed Kleefisch had worked closely with the attorney of a wealthy donor in drafting the bill.

The donor tied to the bill is Michael Eisenga, who donated $3,500 to Kleefisch in 2010, while also making donations to his wife, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and Governor Scott Walker. Eisenga, who is president of American Lending Solutions, currently pays about $18,000 a month to support his three children. Critics of the legislation say it would have allowed him to reopen his divorce settlement and drastically reduce what he pays.

Democrats applauded the decision to remove the bill from consideration, although still questioned the conditions under which it was drafted. State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) called the legislation the product of a “corrupt process.” Taylor also took issue with the content of the bill, which she says would have created remedies to help one person reduce their obligation to support their children, while changing standards that have been in place for some time..

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says he respects Kleefisch’s decision to withdraw the bill, although maintained the issue of making sure child support payments go towards the intended goal is something worthy of discussion. Vos also defended the role a constituent played in creating the legislation, arguing that “a lot of ideas for bills, no matter what they are, come from people in everyday life.”

Vos says he had no discussions with Kleefisch about pulling back the legislation.