A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

House report slams Nixon's office for 'indifference' to Missourians' privacy

4:41 pm on Fri, 10.25.13

Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration showed an “indifference” to Missourians’ privacy rights, according to a report from a House committee examining the controversy over the Department of Revenue’s handling of personal documents, including conceal-carry permits.

Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, speaks with reporters about a committee report on the Department of Revenue's handling of source documents for drivers licenses.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, speaks with reporters about a committee report on the Department of Revenue's handling of source documents for drivers licenses.

State Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia,  detailed the final report at a press conference at the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department headquarters in O’Fallon. 

“Government has certain functions and government has to do certain things,” he said.

“And sometimes there are  questions that have to be private. But they all have the expectation that should be secure. There’s certainly a strong indication based upon this that we really can’t trust our state government to keep private information.”

The report concluded that “the acquisition of equipment and software to gather biometric information on citizens is clearly in contravention of” a 2009 law that bars the state from complying with the federal REAL ID law.

“By taking these actions, the executive branch has shown an indifference to privacy rights of all Missourians and the mandates" in the 2009 law, the report said.

Cox said the report had been sent to DOR and the governor shortly before the 2:30 p.m. press conference. Spokespeople for Nixon and the Department of Revenue did not respond to the Beacon’s request for comment.

Cox chaired the committee -- which included sheriffs and prosecutors from around the state. It was formed after Republicans blasted the Department of Revenue over a new process for issuing driver’s licenses.

That process involved scanning and retaining copies of personal documents – birth certificates, passports and marriage licenses – that people must submit before getting a driver’s license.

The furor over the scanned documents arose when some gun owners complained that the retained documents initially included concealed-carry permits, which the bearers often add as an “endorsement’’ on their driver’s license.

State Republicans were further incensed this year when the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol acknowledged that the state’s list of people with conceal-carry licenses had been turned over twice to the Social Security Administration in connection with a federal investigation.

Cox's report said that that revenue department “continued to implement the components of the federal Real ID Act by scanning and retaining source documents."

Nixon had repeatedly denied such assertions he was trying to implement the federal Real ID Act aimed at tracking potential terrorists.

However, his allies have noted that many Republicans in the General Assembly had initially lauded the Act when it was first enacted by Congress in 2005. The General Assembly soon passed a state version that imposed more identification requirements for people applying for a drivers license.

According to the website of the Department of Homeland Security, the Real ID law "establishes minimum requirements for the production and issuance of state-issued driver’s licenses" to "prevent fraud" and to "deter acts of terrorism."

Officials with the Revenue Department have warned legislators that, while the state hasn't officially complied with REAL ID, failure to comply with some of its provisions could result in the federal government rejecting Missouri drivers licenses as adequate identification to board airplanes.

Even so, the General Assembly trimmed some of the department's allocation from the current fiscal year's budget, in an attempt to force Nixon's administration to make changes by the time legislators reconvene in January. Instead, Nixon ordered that the department's staffing be cut to reflect the reduced budget.

The report (which can be read here) makes three specific recommendations:

  • Eliminate all appropriations to DOR for gathering or retaining source documents, except for verifying immigration status.
  • Require the executive branch to implement administrative rules through the “process established by law, when appropriate, to ensure adequate penalties exist for non-compliance.” It also recommended that the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules review any agency's internal policies and procedures for implementing a state law.
  • Have the governor and DOR, among other things, commit to "not amend procedures for applying for a driver's license or identification card in order to comply with the goals or standards of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005." It also suggested that DOR should report to the budget chairs of both the House and Senate on an annual basis "any changes of procedures relating to issuance of drivers licenses and non-drivers’ licenses."

Cox said the biggest takeaway was the Department of Revenue’s “avoidance of the administrative system by not adopting administrative procedures.” He added the "reasons we have administrative rules are so that the public knows what the public knows what state agencies are doing and their rights are protected."

Nixon signed legislation to bar the state’s Department of Revenue, and its Motor Vehicles Division, from scanning and retaining copies of personal documents used to provide identification for a drivers license. 

Cox said if that bill had been the law before, “this would have never of occurred.”

“The retention of these documents is what gave the state the opportunity to hurt the privacy of 163,000 people, whose documents went to the federal government,” Cox said.

Before signing that bill, Nixon ordered the Department of Revenue to stop scanning conceal and carry information. He eventually signed legislation that transfers the responsibility of issuing conceal-carry permits and permit renewals to local sheriff's offices.

Cox supports return to 'local issuance'

While Cox noted that the Department of Revenue isn’t scanning or retaining source materials any more, it is still issuing driver’s licenses through the mail. That’s a change from prior years, when licenses were issued directly at "fee offices," the private operations overseen by the department and where people go to apply for a drivers license.

(Nixon’s office has said that issuing driver's licenses at fee offices is more expensive and invites the possibility of fraud.)

But Cox said that the Department of Revenue should stop what he calls “central issuance,” his term for sending driver’s licenses through the mail.

“We should go back to local issuance,” Cox said. “And if you’re not retaining the documents, you can trust the employees of those agencies – since you’re not keeping the documents – to do a local inspection of them and to approve or disapprove the driver’s license based upon their lawful presence.”

The report states that “the citizens of our state were promised in 2006 that they would only have to produce source documents one time and not upon each subsequent license renewal."

Cox argued that he didn’t think it was “logical” for citizens to show source documents – like birth certificates – each time when renewing driver’s licenses.

Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies contributed information to this story.

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

Upcoming Events

View Full Calendar

More About The Beacon Home