GOAL Asks Governor Patrick to Explain Where License Fees are Going?

 

GOAL members will recall that several weeks ago the Governor attempted to do away with the written notification of license expirations (see Governor's Budget Item Alert). When one of our members contacted the Governor's office to express his concern on the matter, he was sent a letter with a response. The letter stated, "Mail notification cost the state approximately $40,000 per year in postage and producing the physical notification cards. That expense is funded from the General Fund, not the license fees which go to various state and local funds to promote safety and awareness."

 

This response is of great concern to GOAL since $50 of each $100 license fee, by law, goes to the General Fund.  GOAL has sent the following letter to the Governor, asking him to explain where the licensing fees are going and for information regarding the "safety and awareness programs".

Dear Governor,

Recently, a GOAL member had contacted your office to express his concerns over your proposal to do away with written notification of expiring Licenses to Carry a Firearm and Firearm Identification Cards (outside budget sections 31 and 32). The letter sent out by your staff in response has me greatly concerned.

In the letter, your aide states that sending out notification cards costs the state approximately $40,000 per year. He also states “That expense is funded from the General Fund, not the license fees which go to various state and local funds to promote safety and awareness programs.”

According to Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws (see text below), the General Fund receives $50 of every $100 firearms license application fee. There are approximately 270,000 licenses and cards issued by the state that must be renewed every six years. Most of these renewals are spread out through these years according to the original date of issue. The renewal fees generate about $27,000,000 to be split as the law mandates. These figures should roughly equate to over $2,000,000 a year being deposited into the General Fund by license application fees. This being the case, the state should have more than enough money to conduct the notifications now mandated by state law with $1,960,000.00 to spare.

That leads us to raise an important question. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts ruled that “taxing” for services or rights is illegal (see Emerson College v. City of Boston). In this decision, the court ruled that a fee must be based on services performed or delivered. Accordingly, it would be against the law to use the license fees for anything other than to provide a service to the license holders. With this in mind, could your office please inform GOAL what services are being provided to the license holders with the remaining $1,960,000.00 a year?

Your aide also speaks of “state and local funds to promote safety and awareness programs.” There is no such mention of these funds in the state law nor has GOAL ever heard of any of these programs. Could your office please supply us with information about these funds and programs? Also, if such programs provide grants, would organizations such as GOAL, which trains hundreds of State Police certified instructors and citizens in firearms safety each year, be eligible for funding?

We look forward to hearing back from your office on this matter.

 

Chapter 140, Section 129B (9A) - Except as provided in clause (9B), the fee for an application for a firearm identification card shall be $100, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in the case of revocation or denial.  The licensing authority shall retain $25 of the fee; $50 of the fee shall be deposited in the General Fund; and $25 of the fee shall be deposited in the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, licensing authorities shall deposit quarterly that portion of the firearm identification card application fee which is to be deposited into the General Fund, not later than January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 of each year.

Chapter 140, Section 131 (i) - The fee for the application shall be $100, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain $25 of the fee; $50 of the fee shall be deposited into the general fund of the commonwealth and not less than $50,000 of the funds deposited into the General Fund shall be allocated to the Firearm Licensing Review Board, established in section 130B, for its operations and that any funds not expended by said board for its operations shall revert back to the General Fund; and $25 of the fee shall be deposited in the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund.

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