Ex-Mo. official: No steps to comply with Real ID

The Missouri agency that issues driver’s licenses did not take steps to comply with the Real ID Act after the governor signed a law prohibiting state officials from trying to implement the federal proof-of-identity law, the department’s former director said Wednesday.

Alana Barragan-Scott, who led the Missouri Department of Revenue from July 2009 through late December 2012, testified for several hours at the state Capitol before two investigatory committees. The panels are examining whether Missouri officials have tried to comply with Real ID despite the 2009 state law.

Real ID, an anti-terrorism law approved in 2005, sets strict rules for what states must require for photo identification cards that are accepted to board plans or enter federal buildings. Opponents in Missouri and other states contend the federal government exceeded its authority.

Barragan-Scott said multiple times that officials did not seek to comply with the federal law. She said driver’s licenses and the process for issuing them must be secure, and that the 2009 state law does not bar efforts to improve security.

“I never read the law to prevent my department from seeking to enhance and maintain security of driver licenses or processes,” Barragan-Scott said. Responding later to a different question she said: “Neither myself nor any of my staff took steps for purposes of complying with Real ID.”

The two investigative committees resulted from a months-long controversy arising after a December 2012 decision by Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration to begin making electronic copies of personal documents — such as birth certificates and concealed gun permits — that are shown to clerks by applicants for state driver’s licenses or identification cards. The state also began using an out-of-state contractor to print and mail driver’s licenses instead of issuing them on the spot to applicants.

Lawmakers have objected to the copying as a privacy invasion. The panels are comprised of lawmakers, law enforcement officials and others.

Committee member Russ Oliver, the Stoddard County prosecutor, said it seemed changes were made under the “cloak of the dark of night” and that the issue was becoming less about the Real ID law and more about the department. Oliver has represented in his personal capacity a southeastern Missouri man in a lawsuit over the state’s driver’s license procedures.

“I think it’s pretty clear that you guys were doing whatever you wanted to do,” Oliver said.

Nixon recently 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 had previously copied.

The investigative panels met jointly at the state Capitol through much of the day Wednesday and accepted sworn testimony from Barragan-Scott, the governor’s deputy legislative director Kristy Manning and Nixon’s policy director Jeff Harris. Other officials testified earlier, and there were few watching from the audience. Exchanges between panel members and witnesses were largely calm.

All three witnesses appeared voluntarily Wednesday. However, they had been among several officials subpoenaed earlier to appear before the committee. A judge temporarily blocked the subpoenas.

Asked why Nixon signed the 2009 state law, Harris said his recollection is that the governor’s office felt it did not strike an improper balance between security and privacy. Harris said he recalls just a few conversations about Real ID after enactment of the law. He said the discussions centered on suggesting talking with other states not complying with Real ID to figure out the federal government’s plans and to determine a plan for how to communicate with Missourians.

Posted earlier:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former director of the Missouri department that issues driver’s licenses says the agency did not take steps to comply with the federal Real ID Act after passage of a state law prohibiting it.

Alana Barragan-Scott led the Revenue Department from July 2009 until late December 2012. She testified Wednesday before two legislative panels investigating the handling of driver’s licenses by Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration.

Among other things, committee members have questioned whether Nixon’s administration tried to implement part of the 2005 Real ID Act despite a 2009 state law that forbids Missouri from taking steps intended to comply with it.

Barragan-Scott says driver’s licenses and procedures for issuing them are required to be secure. She says the state’s 2009 law does not bar pursuing security enhancements.

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