February 19, 1999
Utah State Senate
319 State Capitol
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
As we approach the end of the legislative session, it becomes more and more difficult to ensure adequate time for public comment during Senate standing committee meetings. Therefore, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, I am requesting that our statements about the following legislation go on the record.
This afternoon, the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Development Committee will consider SB 212. The ACLU of Utah is very concerned about the impact this law will have on individuals’ First Amendment and Equal Protection rights. As residents of this country, we are extremely fortunate that we have the constitutional right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is particularly troubling, then, that this legislation will make that right dependent upon one’s ability to pay a $35 filing fee. Courts around the country have repeatedly found that such mandatory fees are unconstitutional, and we must be careful not to set up a system in which only those individuals who have money are guaranteed their right to equal protection under the law.
The Senate will soon consider HB 285, which yesterday passed the House in a 70-0 vote. Because of the government money involved and the enormous public impact of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the ACLU of Utah has long advocated that the Salt Lake Olympic Committee abide by Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act. We are therefore very supportive of HB 285, which will ensure an Olympic organizational effort that is both open and accountable.
Passed today by the House in a 39-26 vote, HB 278 seems innocuous – it simply increases the application fees for a state driver license. However, the sponsor’s comments during a House committee meeting on Monday indicate that the additional money raised will be used to fund a new digitized license with a magnetic strip. In light of the sponsor’s comments, we are left to wonder if the revenue will also help pay for the the Utah Driver License Division’s $4.5 million contract with Polaroid Corporation to create digitalized photographs of all Utah’s licensed drivers and ID card holders. And, while we don’t like to engage in conspiracy theories, a front page article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune details a federally funded program to build a national database of driver license images. It is evident that the purpose of HB 278 is to provide funds for technologies that threaten individual privacy rights, and the ACLU of Utah is therefore opposed to this legislation.
Thank you for your consideration, and please feel free to call me if you have any questions about our positions.