Originally created 02/16/99

Sale of photos slipped past lawmakers



COLUMBIA -- The same legislators screeching about the sale of driver's license photos actually voted twice in favor of it.

The brouhaha over the sale to Image Data for $5,000 shows what can happen when lawmakers fail to examine a proposal closely.

So many provisions are attached to appropriations bills in the House and Senate during budget discussions that it nearly is impossible for any legislator to know and understand everything.

It is a perfect place to insert legislation designed to escape microscopic evaluation or simple explanation.

The 1997-98 appropriations bill had 152 special provisions at the end of the budget. The current budget has 144.

The wording that allowed the photos sale can be found in the 1997-98 budget on page 445.

But until The Greenville News wrote an article about the sale, no one worried about it because no one knew about it. Yet the law allowing the sale has been part of the budget for at least two years.

And the Motor Vehicles Division has had the authority under a different state law to sell information collected from driver's licenses.

There also has been an opt-out provision in state law since 1996 that allows motorists to exclude themselves.

Even Rep. James Klauber, R-Greenwood, who fought for legislation blocking the sale of license photographs, said he approved the sales when he voted for the budget in 1997 and 1998.

"I didn't know it was in there," he said. "I didn't know until the final package came back, and to ask me to vote against the final budget is asking me to vote against LIFE Scholarships and tax relief."

Mr. Klauber, a House member for six years, said, "I think throughout the history of this state some of the worst legislation ever passed was stuck in the ... permanent provisos of the budget."

House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, said unless the rules were changed to eliminate such provisos, there is no way to stop it.

"The people who want to do it, their craftsmanship has improved over the years, and they know exactly how to get around it by tying it into a line item on the budget," Mr. Wilkins said.