Missouri’s top House official has withdrawn subpoenas attempting to compel members of Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration to testify before a committee looking into changes in state driver’s license procedures.
Republican House Speaker Tim Jones said Monday that although he dropped efforts to enforce the subpoenas, he still hopes Nixon’s staff will voluntarily testify at a future committee hearing.
Court documents show the subpoenas were withdrawn last week and that an attorney representing the Republican House speaker has asked a Cole County judge to dismiss a legal challenge to the subpoenas that was filed on behalf of the Democratic governor’s staff.
Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said Monday that the court is expected to dismiss the case.
That could bring a quiet end to a hubbub that arose when five current Nixon staffers and his former Revenue Department director declined to comply with House subpoenas to appear June 27 before an investigatory panel compromised of legislators, law enforcement officials and other citizens.
Cole County Judge Dan Green later that day issued an order temporarily blocking the subpoenas from being enforced. The judge was to receive written arguments from attorneys representing the executive and legislative branch officials as to whether that order should be made permanent.
But an attorney for Jones and the Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection filed a motion last week asking that the legal case be dismissed because the subpoenas are now moot. The motion was dated Wednesday but listed as filed Friday by online court records.
Attached to the filing was a copy of a letter dated Wednesday from Jones to the six people who had been subpoenaed saying he was “withdrawing and releasing you from you obligation to comply with those subpoenas.”
“Since the hearing date has come and gone, the initial subpoenas are now a moot point and contesting them in court would accomplish nothing,” Jones said in a written statement Monday.
Holste said Monday the decision to drop the subpoenas was a “sensible step,” since a judge had temporarily blocked them.
The committee has been looking into a December 2012 decision by Nixon’s administration to begin making electronic copies of personal documents – such as birth certificates or concealed gun permits – shown to clerks by applicants for state driver’s licenses or identification cards. Lawmakers have described the record copying as an invasion of privacy.
Among other things, the panelists were questioning whether Nixon’s administration was trying to implement parts of the 2005 Real ID Act despite a 2009 state law forbidding the state from taking steps intended to comply with the federal proof-of-identity law.
On July 1, Nixon signed legislation ordering the Department of Revenue to immediately stop copying applicants’ personal documents and to securely destroy by the end of the year the documents that it previously copied.
In court documents filed last week, an attorney for Jones indicated that former Revenue Department Director Alana Barragan-Scott has agreed to testify before the committee at another date.
Committee chairman, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said Monday he has asked members of Nixon’s administration to voluntarily testify July 23 or July 24. He also said a second investigatory committee composed solely of legislators has been created to avoid concerns about whether the current committee which includes non-legislators can legally request House subpoenas.
Holste indicated that Nixon’s administration is open to cooperation.
“Lawmakers will continue to be provided the information they need to have an informed and thoughtful discussion on these matters,” Holste said in a written statement.