SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers voted Wednesday to move forward with legislation that could potentially raise fees for drivers' licenses and concealed firearm permits.
The sponsor of the proposed fee revisions, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the current driver's license fees don't cover the costs of issuing them, forcing the state to subsidize the Utah Driver License Division with taxpayer dollars.
Thatcher argued that the difference between fees and taxes is that taxes pay for society's broad priorities while fees are paid as an individual user's costs.
"I would really like to get this bill passed so that we can recover the tax dollars that are currently subsidizing what should be covered by fees," he told the Utah Legislature's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.
Taxpayer dollars, Thatcher said, ought to go toward funding law enforcement or mental health support, not supporting costs for licensing.
Brian Judy, of the National Rifle Association, argued that several concealed carry permit and background check fees should be separated from the series of proposed fee increases.
"We were told that the renewal fee is adequate. Why is that now being proposed to be increased," he asked.
Judy argued that firearms licensing has been a priority determined by society at large for the sake of public safety.
"If you assume that (a concealed firearm permit) does provide some public safety, if it's being pushed by society at large, then it should be funded by society at large," he said.
Judy said the costs for the concealed firearm permit background check, done by Utah's Bureau of Criminal Identification, could be done away with in favor of the National Instant Criminal background check, which can be done for free.
Joseph Brown, of the Department of Public Safety, said the department is processing the more firearm permits, but the number has shifted from new applicants to more renewals.
"Because the number of permit holders has increased, we are doing more work with the same amount of money or less money," Brown said.
He said the renewal fees for concealed firearm permits needed to be increased to match the initial application fees in order to support the Department of Public Safety's workload.
Alice Moffitt, director for the Bureau of Criminal Identification, said Utah's Brady background check goes beyond the National Instant Criminal background check and accesses more criminal identification databases.