The report of two House Committees formed in May to investigate the handling of Missouri license applicants’ information includes accusations that the Department of Revenue violated state law by implementing practices that comply with parts of the federal Real ID Act of 2005.
The Committees were formed in response to the dissemination to federal agencies of more than 163,000 concealed carry permit records.
The Department began scanning and retaining copies of personal documents from license applicants in December. The Chairman of the two committees, Representative Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) says that process, the purchase of equipment related to it and the Department’s creation of a “central issuance” method of licensing all violated state law.
The findings follow those of the State Auditor’s office, that last month said the Department violated state law by not going through proper procedures in creating its scanning policy.
The Department has since stopped scanning documents and Governor Jay Nixon has signed legislation barring the scanning of personal documents from license applicants.
Cox says the Committee ran into road blocks when trying to determine who was responsible for the violations he says it found.
He says there was, “A lot of evasive testimony. Not only do the employees (of the Department of Revenue and the Governor’s Office) have no recollection of talking about these changes … the suggestion is that somehow these things occurred without the involvement of the Governor’s Office and they’ve never even ever discussed it, and of course I don’t consider those particularly credible claims.”
The report also contains criticism of the Department for adopting its new licensing procedures as internal policies, thereby not bringing them before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Cox thinks those new procedures have a direct impact on Missourians, and so they should have been reviewed by that joint committee.
“The sole purpose of that … the only thing I can figure out is … was so that there would be no review through JCAR of their actions in that regard, so that no one would be really aware of what they were doing and how they were doing it.”
The Committees’ recommendations include that the executive branch implement rules to ensure agencies implementing policies or procedures to implement a state law bring those before JCAR or file them with the legislature before they are enacted.
Representative Gina Mitten (D-Richmond Heights) served on both privacy protection committees and sits on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. She says following that recommendation would be redundant with the legislature’s existing power over agencies’ budgets.
“As a legislative body, if there is a concern about rules being promulgated or going through JCAR, I think that (the budgetary process) is an existing remedy that the General Assembly always has the opportunity to avail itself of. Trying to change an existing statutory framework that has been vetted by the courts always causes me concern.”
As to the Department violating state law by implementing components of Real ID, Mitten says that is an example of the state legislature not paying close enough attention to the actual wording of statutes it writes.
“The Department was faced with a paradox of complying with existing law that says we have to have a safe and secure process for creating photo identification and complying with a law that says you can not do anything in order to comply with Real ID. I would challenge anyone to tell me how any department could simultaneously comply with both of those items.”
The Committee also took testimony on the issuance of more than 3,500 fraudulent identification cards out of the St. Joseph License Office, the likely harm of which Cox says “cannot be overemphasized.”
The report says many of those IDs were issued after an investigation was underway and said the law enforcement that testified about the case could not explain why fraudulent issuances were allowed to continue. The report also says the same person that operated the fee office while the fraudulent issuances were occurring is operating it now.
It concludes the Department must establish policies preventing an operator from retaining a contract “after such a massive criminal enterprise has taken place under the operating authority of that individual,” and says the Governor’s office must undertake careful review of its process for choosing operators.