Several state senators say they've gotten phone calls from constituents complaining that the Revenue Department is asking for unnecessary information when people get their driver's or concealed weapons permits--and is keeping it. Some constituents say the department has told them it's not being done for Homeland Security.
Senate Appropriations chairman Kurt Schaefer of Columbia says the revenue director had assured him it has nothing to do with Homeland Security and denied the department had any grants from that agency.
Schaefer says the department later denied gathering biometric data on license applicants. But earlier this week a department official admitted to a legislative committee it was, in fact, gathering the information and, further, has a Homeland Security grant to help get the information.
Morpho Trust, the company the department sends the information to, produces drivers licenses and gun permits. It is supposed to destroy the information. But the Schaefer says the department has no way to verify the information is being destroyed.
In fact, Shaefer says, Homeland Security audits the company six times a year and gets its data.
He says he's not a "big conspiracy guy," but he says the actions raise fundamental questions of why government is gathering that kind of data on law abiding citizens in a free society.
Last night, the House Budget Committee removed $85,000 from the Revenue Department budget. Rep. Robert Ross of Yukon pushed for the change, saying he's not satisfied with the answers he's gotten from the department about the information-gathering.
Schaefer and other senators indicate the issue is not going to go away soon.