This is GREAT News!
By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Senate followed through with its threat of slashing the Department of Revenue budget by completely eliminating funding for the driver’s license bureau in a budget proposal passed Monday night.
That plan would ax 37 full-time positions in the DOR’s license division in a $3.5 million cut. The trims also include a reduction of $7 million in DOR administrative costs, $9 million from the computer technology division of the Office of Administration and another $20 million from the Department of Public Safety administration.
LOST LICENSE? The current Senate budget eliminates licensing funding completely.
The way Republican senators see it, all of these departments had a hand in invading citizens’ privacy. The budget includes $2 million for a sheriffs’ task force to oversee producing conceal carry permits, stripping that duty from DOR.
Some lawmakers are incensed with the revenue department for its new practice of scanning and maintaining copies of important documents of state residents, such as passports and birth certificates, when they obtain a state driver’s license. Concealed carry weapon certificates were also a part of the practice until Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the DOR to cease that practice last week.
It came to light that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a division of the Department of Public Safety, sent lists of the state’s concealed carry permits holders to the Social Security Administration as part of a federal fraud investigation.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hopes the Senate’s actions will spur more open discussion on the issue.
“I’m pretty confident that this will get someone’s attention … and we’ll start getting those answers,” he said.
Carl Bearden, a former GOP lawmaker and founder of United for Missouri, which has hounded Nixon on this issue, said the Senate’s actions should spur more forthrightness.
“They obviously fail to grasp the importance and impact of this scandal,” Bearden told Missouri Watchdog on Tuesday. “This long Nixon scandal is impacting a lot of things associated with confidence in state government.”
Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, expressed concern that the budget would curtail the state’s ability to provide some important services. Schaefer admitted the cut would prevent the DOR from issuing driver’s licenses, but few expect the final budget to contain zero funding for the licensing division.
“I want to make sure we’re not affecting people who basically caught friendly fire who didn’t do anything wrong,” said McKenna during lengthy debate on the budget Monday night.
The Senate will meet with the House to negotiate a final version of the 2014 budget, which must be passed by May 10, a week before the 2013 session of the Missouri General Assembly ends.
The next fiscal year begins July 1.
Nixon to testify in document scanning lawsuit
There were more developments in the DOR document scanning flap Monday as Nixon was subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit over the issue and a House member announced he would investigate the department.
The Southeast Missourian reported the subpoena was issued to Nixon in a suit brought by Eric Griffin, a Stoddard County man who was forced to submit to the scanning procedures to get his concealed carry endorsement.
Griffin’s attorney, Russ Oliver, stood with House Speaker Tim Jones on the steps of the Commons Pleas Courthouse in Cape
NIXON: The state’s chief executive has been subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit over the document scanning.
Girardeau to announce the subpoena. That facility was the scene of a public forum on the scanning issue Monday night.
Oliver said he decided to ask for Nixon’s testimony after weeks of evasive answers.
“This subpoena is not being issued to harass or vex the governor,” he said. “We just want the truth.”
Attorney General Chris Koster, previously silent on the issue after Jones held a news conference in front of his office calling for an investigation, at the forum said the known facts “are moving around a great deal, still.”
“Let’s develop a set of facts that we can rely upon, and then work to address policy decisions that protect the rights of Missourians and protect the rights of gun owners in this state,” he said.
Also Monday, Rep. Eric Burlison released a statement saying he would investigate, with plans to send an open-records request to the DOR for records related to the new scanning procedures.
Schaefer received about 50 boxes of documents from DOR earlier this month.
“This has been a story that has become more alarming with every new fact that has been discovered,” said Burlison, R-Springfield. “The Missouri people want the truth about what the department has done with their personal information, and I want to do everything I can to help bring that information to light.”
Contact Johnny Kampis at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Missouri Watchdog updates, visit Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our free newsletter with investigative reports and breaking news alerts.