JFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bipartisan committee on privacy protection formed by House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, to examine possible wrongdoing on the part of state agencies held its first series of testimony Wednesday.
The committee’s investigation stemmed from the Department of Revenue’s scanning of personal documents, which was discovered earlier this year during the legislative session.
Jackie Bemboom, Department of Motor Vehicles and Driver Licensing Director, testified before the committee about how and why her department — a division of the DOR — implemented new security procedures for licenses, which included the retention of certain digital copies of personal documents, newer photo requirements and fingerprint scanning.
Committee members were concerned that the reason many new security measures were added to the process — including the scanning and retaining of documents such as marriage and birth certificates — were related to the Department’s attempted implementation of the federal REAL ID Act. Missouri passed legislation in 2009 prohibiting compliance with the federal law amid cries that the requirements could allow personal information to be more easily disseminated to the federal government.
“My concern here is whether we were attempting to implement something that our legislature already said they didn’t want us to comply with,” Sheriff Michael Dixon of Osage County, committee member, said during questioning. “And the perception here, based on this evidence, is that that is what we were doing.”
Dixon pointed to a checklist of 39 policies that the Department of Homeland Security required states to adopt to be in full compliance with the REAL ID Act. Documents from within the DOR show that as many as 34 of the 39 requirements have been met by the state of Missouri.
Bemboom said many of the federal REAL ID requirements were similar to common sense, anti-fraud measures the state was already adopting, and that the Department “made no attempt” to comply with REAL ID after the state legislature banned it’s adoption.
“Do we have a system that is complying with REAL ID? No,” Bemboom said. “But we do have a comparable system. But comparable and compliant are two different things.”
Committee testimony grew increasingly tense as members began to disagree with Bemboom’s assessment of Missouri policy as it related to the REAL ID compliance, and several members accused her of “parsing words.”
“If you’re complying with all the elements of REAL ID, and then we make the decision not to pursue that, and you continue to comply with all those 30 something points but you call it something else, that just seems like circumvention of the legislature to me,” Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Monett, said to Bemboom during questioning.
The committee also announced it would be issuing subpoenas to several administrative officials, including former DOR director Alana Barragán-Scott and several current and former members of Gov. Jay Nixon’s staff that have worked as legislative liaisons to the DOR.
Speaker Jones issued a statement later in the evening stating that he would be announcing further steps being taken to compel testimony and production of evidence from Nixon in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, June 27.
More witnesses are scheduled to appear before the committee that same day, though Chairman Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said he was unsure how many of them would “grant [the committee] the courtesy” of showing up to testify.
Be sure to check back tomorrow afternoon for a story about Jones’ announcement.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.