Judge blocks legislative effort to subpoena top aides to Gov. Jay Nixon
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones appears to be in a standoff with Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, after a judge stepped in Thursday to block Jones’ attempt force the governor’s top aides to testify before a state House panel.
The panel, called the Bipartisan Committee on Privacy Protection, is probing why the state Drivers License Division – part of the Department of Revenue – is continuing to scan and retain copies of the personal documents – such as drivers licenses and passports -- that people must submit to obtain drivers licenses.
Jones, a member of the committee, asserted in a conference call today that the he and other panel members had issued subpoenas directed at six members of the governor’s staff. However, a Cole County judge quashed the subpoenas Thursday, and set a July 28 hearing to discuss the matter. The committee was specifically barred from taking any action before then.
Jones, R-Eureka, contends that that Nixon’s administration is improperly implementing the federal REAL ID mandate, aimed at preventing would-be terrorists from obtaining drivers licenses. The federal law was passed during President George W. Bush’s administration.
But the Missouri General Assembly voted in 2009 to bar the state from complying with REAL ID, seen as violating the public’s privacy. Nixon signed the bill into law. However, since then, Department of Revenue officials have put in place policies – such as the document-scanning – that appear to be in line with REAL ID’s intent.
In particular, committee members are concerned about communications between the department and federal Homeland Security officials, in which the state officials cite measures that they say make Missouri’s drivers licenses as secure from fraud as those in other states that are implementing REAL ID.
The aim, Revenue officials said, was to make sure that Missouri’s drivers licenses met federal requirements and could be used as identification to get on airplanes, or as ID for other federal programs.
Jones said Thursday that many states have voted to opt out of REAL ID, and that so far there have been no ramifications. He denied that the federal "supremacy clause'' applies, in which federal law trumps state law.
The legislative probe was touched off several months ago, when legislators learned that the Department of Revenue was scanning and retaining copies of concealed-carry permits.
Jones contended Thursday that Nixon’s administration was seeking to comply with federal attempts to track gun ownership; Nixon previously has denied any such intention, and ordered the department to quit scanning the concealed-carry documents.
Nixon repeatedly has said, however, that his administration will continue to scan documents for drivers licenses, to prevent fraud.