Department of Revenue (DOR) officials underwent more grilling Wednesday from a Missouri Senate committee over the agency’s practice of scanning source documents for driver’s license applications, conceal-carry weapon endorsements, and other license applications.
Revenue officials say they began scanning source documents as a means of combatting fraud, and that they are not breaking a 2009 state law that forbids compliance with the federal Real ID Act. During the hearing, Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) asked DOR Director Brian Long to stop copying documents from conceal-carry weapon (CCW) applicants. Long refused.
“We have an interest in maintaining a record of who has a CCW and who doesn’t, because we have a statutory duty to remove that endorsement when the courts tell us to do so,” Long told Schaefer.
Schaefer asked, “and you have to scan and keep those documents for that purpose?” Long answered, “no, we do not -- not for that purpose.” Schaefer asked again, “and you won’t make a commitment right now that you’ll just stop doing that?” “I’m not prepared to do that,” Long answered.
Schaefer was not happy with Long's response. He later told reporters that unless DOR officials begin cooperating and reverse course, he’ll block the budget for the Division of Motor Vehicles and Driver's Licensing from being passed.
“The legislature’s not gonna be held hostage by an out-of-control agency," Schaefer said. "To say, ‘well, yeah, we didn’t tell the public about it, the public doesn’t like it, there are privacy concerns, we’ve now subjected Missourians to massive potential for ID theft, yet go ahead and give us that money, anyway, and we’ll talk to you later.'”
In addition, Schaefer says the Missouri State Highway Patrol has twice given the entire list of Missourians with conceal-carry endorsements to the federal government. Office of Administration Commissioner Doug Nelson told the committee that the Patrol made two requests of the DOR to run all driver's licenses that contain CCW's. Nelson says the first request was made in November 2011, and the second in January of this year. He added that, in his opinion, the requests involved lawful purposes. Schaefer said that he wondered what kind of lawful purpose involves "batch runs" on conceal-carry endorsements. It's possible that MSHP Superintendent Ron Replogle may appear before the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
Schaefer is also planning to hold hearings across Missouri in the coming weeks to get more information on the Department of Revenue’s practice of scanning and storing source documents. He contends that DOR officials are violating the 2009 state law that forbids compliance with the federal Real ID Act.
“Ultimately, Real ID requires ID verification through a national database," Schaefer said. "What information is going into the database? Who has the capability to search it? We have to know what that is, because if there’s not sufficient privacy protections, then we’re gonna have to make sure those are in place.”
Schaefer says they’re working to schedule dates and sites for the hearings, and hope to conduct them before the Missouri Senate votes on the state budget. Both chambers of the General Assembly have until May 11th to send next year's budget to Governor Jay Nixon (D).
Meanwhile, the Missouri House on Wednesday gave first-round approval (i.e. perfected) their version of a bill that would bar the Department of Revenue from scanning and storing documents for driver’s and non-driver’s license applications.
Also, State Auditor Tom Schweich (R) issued a statement Wednesday saying he receive a letter from Schaefer and several other State Senators asking him to get involved. Schweich says he wrote them back, stating that he had already planned to conduct audits into five license fee offices, and that he would now make it a top priority to "investigate their concerns related to scanning source documents."
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