February 14, 2016

Committee to try again for license fee office award details

Representative Sue Allen (R-Town and Country)

A House Committee didn’t get the answers it wanted about how the state’s license offices are awarded, and it’s chairman isn’t happy about it.

Representative Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) says her committee asked the Department of Revenue to explain how it awards contracts for the 183 license offices in the state. She says the Department’s legislative director, Jay Atkins, who came to its hearing, wasn’t prepared to answer its questions.

“He was there to read a prepared statement. That’s not a hearing and that’s not the way I think we as legislators are able to exercise oversight.”

In a letter to the Department, Allen says she thinks it was trying to impede her committee’s work. She requested, and the department has accepted, that several of its staff members be at a hearing November 8.

Allen says at this point the committee simply wants to understand the point system that’s in place. “It wasn’t to mess anybody up. It was just to understand where there is subjectivity. Explain it and say it.”

For many years the state’s license offices were awarded by Governors, generally to political allies. A competitive bidding process has been phased in beginning with the administration of Governor Matt Blunt (R) and continuing with current Governor Jay Nixon (D). Allen says it’s time to see if that process has truly gotten away from the old practices.

“For a long time they were patronage, and if that’s what it is, fine. That’s what it is. But, if you’re saying it is more than patronage and that there’s a new process, then let’s clarify the process so it’s transparent.”