Less than six months after the state Revenue Department began scanning driving applicants' personal documents into a state computer system, Missouri lawmakers sent the governor legislation Wednesday that would force the department to stop.
Republican lawmakers began pushing for the measure after learning about the new license procedures early in the legislative session. The push accelerated in March after a Stoddard County man filed a lawsuit challenging the state's new licensing procedures. They said that scanning documents, such as birth certificates and concealed weapons permits, were an invasion of privacy. But Revenue Department officials defended the procedures during several legislative hearings on the matter and said they provided increased security and cut down on fraud.
The bill passed the Senate 25-8 on Wednesday and the House earlier this week. It would prevent any future document scanning and would require the department to securely destroy any documents collected since September 2012.
The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon whose administration has been under attack from Republicans over the new procedures. Nixon said earlier this year that the department would no longer scan concealed weapons permits but would continue the procedure for other documents. Former Revenue Department Director Brian Long also declined to stop scanning other documents when questioned by a Senate panel in April.
The department began scanning documents shortly after a clerk in a St. Joseph license office pleaded guilty Dec. 11 in a scheme to accept false identification documents that federal prosecutor say resulted in Missouri licenses being issued to more than 3,500 people living illegally in the U.S. New license procedures were implemented that required local license office clerks to scan documents into a computer that had previously just been shown by applicants to the clerks.
Republicans argued that scanning documents would not necessarily prevent similar instances of fraud because only a limited number of scanned documents are reviewed by department officials.
Many Democrats opposed the legislation, arguing that it wasn't necessary. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, voted against the bill Wednesday and accused Republicans of engaging in “shenanigans.”
“We have so many pressing issues we should have dealt with,” she said. “I am fed up with all of that back and forth and trying to affront the governor for some political purpose.”
Republicans did retreat on a provision of the measure from earlier versions that would've prevented the department from conducting facial recognition analysis on license photos. Sponsoring Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said the department wanted to have the option to use facial recognition for law enforcement purposes.
The bill also would prevent any state agency from sharing the entire list of concealed weapons permit holders with the federal government. That provision was added after lawmakers learned the Highway Patrols shared that list with a federal agent in the Social Security Administration. It would also allow people to file civil lawsuits against the state if they were harmed or the victim of identity theft because the department scanned their documents.
Some Republican lawmakers feared the department's new system was an attempt to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which sets stringent requirements for photo identification cards to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings.
Missouri has a 2009 law prohibiting the state from taking steps intended to comply with the goals of the 2005 federal identity law. In a Dec. 12 letter to the U.S. Homeland Security secretary, former Revenue Director Alana Barragan-Scott asserted that Missouri's security standards for issuing driver's licenses “are comparable to or exceed the substantive security standards of the federal REAL ID Act.” One of those requirements is to retain a database of scanned source documents.