Freshman Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, won his first legislative battle Friday — before it even started.
Tinderholt, a military veteran who unseated Republican incumbent Diane Patrick in last year’s primary, filed his first piece of legislation late last month — a bill to force the Texas Department of Public Safety to end its policy of collecting all 10 fingerprints from people getting driver’s licenses.
DPS began the policy in 2014, saying state law granted it the authority to do so. DPS Director Steven McCraw explained that the agency felt “that the only reliable way to establish a person’s identity is to collect all 10 fingerprints.”
He declared: “Making sure individuals are who they claim to be in the process of issuing government identification is a critical safeguard to protecting the public against criminal threats. It is important to understand that the only reliable way to establish a person’s identity is to collect all 10 fingerprints.”
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Many Texans — including numerous state lawmakers — felt McCraw and the DPS had overstepped their bounds and needed to revert to the practice of collecting only thumbprints, as it had for more than 40 years. Some legislators insisted that they had never given DPS the legal authority to collect all 10 prints.
But the policy remained in place, and Tinderholt targeted it in the first bill he filed.
“Unless you have committed a crime or are suspected of committing a crime, there is no reason for a government agency to have a database of your fingerprints,” Tinderholt said at the time. “I told the residents of District 94 that I would fight for transparency and accountable government. That is what this bill does.”
DPS’ surprise announcement late Friday gives Tinderholt a victory before the bill even had a hearing.
In announcing the decision, public safety officials cited “concerns and questions raised by a number of legislators regarding the statutory authority of DPS” to collect all 10 prints. An index fingerprint will still be collected under the revised policy, which takes effect Monday.
John Gravois, 817-390-7734