JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection has completed the process of gathering testimony and is now preparing to submit a report to House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, about what steps the legislature should take to prevent what Committee Chairman Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, called a “clear and obvious” violation of state law by the Department of Revenue.
Cox and his fellow committee members will now begin crafting a report with recommendations to Jones, who formed the committee after it was revealed the DOR had scanned, retained and at least once distributed to the federal government thousands of personal documents relating to conceal carry permit holders in Missouri.
Many new policies adopted by the DOR in recent years relating to anti-fraud security measures for state-issued licenses appear to have been adopted against the will of the legislature, according to the committee.
In 2009, Missouri passed a law stating that no policies regarding licenses could be adopted that intended to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. Since then, however, the DOR has adopted 32 of the 34 federal REAL ID security requirements.
Some of those requirements included the scanning of personal documents like birth certificates and the retention of a digital copy of that document by a third party vendor. This practice, according to Cox, was intended to be prohibited by this law, but was not.
“Some of that testimony from the DOR and the Governor’s office saying we adopted these things but not to comply with REAL ID was pretty disingenuous,” Cox said. “I think we’re looking at a scenario where we take very specific practices currently in place relating to REAL ID and we have to ban them in statue, word for word.”
The report will likely call on the legislature to ban certain practices and force the DOR to eliminate all the data related to document scanning currently held by both the Department and a third party, something Committee member Keith English, D-Florissant, called a “very serious concern.”
“Our priority will be to make sure this state is not trying to comply with REAL ID,” English told The Missouri Times. “I firmly believe based on what we’ve seen that [the Department of Revenue] was trying to do just that. Second, we need to make sure that information the department already obtained, we want to make sure that is gone, that they can’t holding on to that.”
Some committee members have also eyed changes to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), perhaps enshrining additional oversight authority to prevent further policy adoption by departments that appear to conflict with the law.
Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis City, is a member of the investigative committee as well as JCAR, and said that JCAR is a “balancing act” that shouldn’t be lightly changed.
“It’s a very hard balance between wanting government to be efficient and streamlined and wanting it to be accountable,” Mitten told The Missouri Times. “How do you reconcile the tension between personal privacy, security and law enforcement while also striving for excellence in those areas? I worry about it because JCAR doesn’t need to be making it too difficult for departments to make changes, because then you create a situation with all these expensive and unnecessary bureaucracies. On the other hand, departments need accountability to the people and we are their elected representatives. It’s going to be a very tough balancing act. “
Cox said that he hopes the committee can have a signed report ready for Jones before the start of veto session next month, citing that the committee is widely in agreement in a number of areas, and indicated that there may be legislation ready by the time pre-filing begins in December.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman