State agency says FBI policies required the increase, gun-rights advocates say the hike is not legal.
State lawmakers on Thursday said the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) may have overstepped when it hiked the fee charged to first-time concealed weapons permit holders by $20 without seeking legislative approval.
Lawmakers, not state agencies, set fees and BCI’s decision violates both state law and the agency’s own rules, Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said.
“What we can’t allow is unilateral decisions by administrative action in lieu of appropriate action,” he said.
On Aug. 1, the cost of a first-time permit was raised to $57 for Utah residents and $67 for out-of-staters.
The agency was summoned to explain its decision to the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee after complaints that permit-seekers unwilling to pay the additional cost were told their applications could not be processed.
But from BCI’s perspective, the $20 increase is not a fee hike, Lt. Ryan Van Fleet, assistant division director, said. Instead, it is an add-on to cover the expense of running applicant fingerprints through a state database to check for criminal charges or convictions.
It’s a step the agency has to take in order to comply with policy changes implemented by the FBI in 2012 requiring electronic submission of fingerprints, Van Fleet said.
BCI hangs its authority to impose the fee on HB124, a state law passed in 2015, he said. Under the law, the $20 charge can be applied to any non-criminal entity or individual applicant whose activities or profession — from nurses and doctors to massage therapists — require some state-level background check in order for licensure.
BCI has collected the fee from license seekers for the past two years, but had overlooked concealed-weapons permit applicants until this year, he said.
“It was purely an oversight on BCI’s part,” Van Fleet said. “When the law went into effect in 2015 that allowed that collection, BCI didn’t catch it.”
“That is a subsidy from the citizens of the state of Utah to out-of-state concealed-permit people.”
— Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City