Some state licensing steps meet Real ID
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Although Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has denied trying to comply with the federal Real ID act, newly released documents show his administration told federal officials that the state’s security standards for issuing driver’s licenses may actually exceed those required by the federal proof-of-identity law.
The documents made public Tuesday by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer underscore a growing distrust and frustration among Republican lawmakers with a new driver’s license process in which clerks are making electronic copies of applicants’ personal information such as birth certificates and concealed gun permits. Those documents are being saved in a state database, and Republicans fear they could be shared with the federal government or other entities — despite denials from Nixon’s administration that it is doing so.
Nixon signed a 2009 Missouri law prohibiting the state from taking steps to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act, which sets stringent proof-of-identity requirements for photo identification cards to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings.
Responding to Republican concerns about Missouri’s new driver’s license procedures, the Democratic governor told reporters last week that the state is “not moving forward on trying to implement Real ID.”
But documents show Missouri has taken several steps that would comply with parts of the Real ID Act.
Schaefer released a copy of some documents Tuesday obtained under a recent Senate subpoena for information from the Department of Revenue, which administers Missouri’s driver’s license system. The documents include a Dec. 12 letter sent by Alana Barragan-Scott, who at the time was the Revenue Department director, to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano documenting Missouri’s progress in complying with 39 specific Real ID requirements. The federal agency had set a compliance deadline of Jan. 15 but has since issued waivers on that.
“Missouri’s security standards for the issuance of driver licenses and identification cards are comparable to or exceed the substantive security standards of the federal REAL ID Act,” Baragan-Scott wrote in the letter.
An attached checklist notes several instances in which Missouri is not in compliance with the federal law. But it also notes that Missouri’s new driver’s license procedures would comply with a federal requirement to retain digital images of “source documents” supplied by applicants for a minimum of 10 years. It also states the department would meet a Real ID standard by maintaining a database of all the information printed on a driver’s license or state identification card, which in Missouri includes whether a person has a concealed gun permit.
Revenue Department spokesman Ted Farnen said in an email Tuesday that the agency “has not been, is not now, and does not intend to comply with Real ID.”
“The letter underscores that while Missouri does not comply with Real ID, Missouri is, and has long been, strongly committed to issuing secure and accurate state-issued photo IDs,” Farnen said. “The letter also reiterates that even though Missouri will not comply with Real ID, the Department of Homeland Security should not prohibit Missourians from boarding airplanes or entering federal office buildings.”
Nixon told reporters Tuesday that he had not reviewed the Dec. 12 letter from the Department of Revenue and “wouldn’t want to comment on things I haven’t had a chance to see.”
Schaefer, R-Columbia, plans to question Department of Revenue officials today during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he leads.
“Our concern right now is a lot of things are being implemented for arguably some level of bureaucratic efficiency ... without any public policy discussion about whether or not this is the right thing to do,” Schaefer said.
The Missouri Senate on Tuesday gave initial approval to legislation that would prohibit the Department of Revenue from creating a database of people’s personal documents and require it to securely destroy all the information already in the state computer system.
The measure, which needs another vote to go to the House, also would change the way Missouri issues concealed weapons permits in order to exclude the Revenue Department. Currently, concealed weapons permits are issued by a county sheriff and then printed on driver’s licenses issued by the Revenue Department. The Senate bill would have sheriffs issue and print concealed gun permits.
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