From Duane Lester of the Missouri Torch, who is doing an absolutely great job of keeping us up on this issue!
Rep. Stanley Cox: “It’s Absolutely Clear…The Dept. of Revenue Was Implementing All The Requirements of REAL ID”
Yesterday in Jefferson City, the Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection concluded public hearings on the Department of Revenue’s collection of data from CCW holders, the release of the CCW list to the federal government and the department’s possible violation of state law by implementing the requirements of REAL ID.
Following a discussion of the committee’s conclusions, which you can watch here, I spoke with Rep. Stanley Cox, chairman of the committee about what he believes happened.
“It’s absolutely clear to everyone that heard the testimony, maybe without exception, that despite the claims to the contrary, the Department of Revenue clearly was implementing all of the requirements of REAL ID,” Cox said.
Implementation of REAL ID was prohibited by state law in 2009 when Gov. Jay Nixon signed HB 361 into law. Members of the Nixon administration testified that despite the Department of Revenue taking action to comply with REAL ID, they weren’t violating the law because of the way the law was worded.
Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Counsel to the Governor, made the case yesterday to the Bipartisan Investigative Committee for Privacy Protection and Special Interim Committee on Privacy Protection that those three words change everything.
He testified that as long as actions that furthered compliance with REAL ID were taken, but not taken “in order to” comply with REAL ID, they were completely legal:
I think when it says ‘in order to comply with the goals or standards of REAL ID,’ I think that’s a purpose provision in there, and I understand what you’re saying, but I would disagree with that.
He later added:
That ‘in order to’ is important words in there. I understand, you may give it a different meaning than I may, but I think those are important words.
If there’s a reason to implement something, for a security enhancement, ok, that is separate from implementing or complying with REAL ID, then the argument is you’re not doing it in order to comply with REAL ID.
Speculation was raised as to whether this logic was used by Gov. Nixon as a way to sign the bill into law, all the while intending to violate its intent. Cox said that was a “reasonable argument.”
“Because the testimony we received, that at the time of the adoption of that legislation in 2009, that even though they only testified for informational purposes, the department really opposed that, or at least there were a great number of people in the agency who thought it was a bad law. They never testified against it. So one theoretical analysis was, “Well, we’ll just let the General Assembly pass it, the Governor will sign the legislation, which he did, and we’ll just go ahead and ignore it.”
Although Cox believes there were laws broken, he says there will be no prosecution of those violations.
“Those were misdemeanors, not something likely to be prosecuted. They have a very short statute of limitations of one year. When these violations would have occurred, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were more than a year ago because they can’t be prosecuted. So, is somebody going to be prosecuted? Of course not. There’s not anybody really inclined to do it.”
The committee will issue a final report later with recommendations on how to prevent incidents like this in the future.