Lawmakers asked to block Revenue ‘law-breaking’
Monday, March 4, 2013
Since last fall, the state Revenue Department has been switching to a new way of issuing driver’s and non-driver’s licenses, and how concealed-carry permits are recorded on those documents.
But the state Senate’s Transportation Committee was asked last week to approve a bill prohibiting the department from keeping copies of any of the documents Missourians must show to get those licenses.
“We had a constituent complain about getting a driver’s license and having to produce a birth certificate to do that,” Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, told the committee Wednesday, during a hearing on his bill, “and we found out that the Department of Revenue was going to start copying those and keeping them in a database.
He said that in 2009, a bill signed by the governor limited the ability to keep and store such data. That bill prohibited the department from changing its procedures to comply with the federal government’s 2005 REAL ID law.
Kerry Messer, a lobbyist for the Missouri Family Network and Missouri Baptist Convention, reminded the committee that a 1997 law prohibits the department from collecting “any information” that can be used to identify an individual, “unless the department has specific statutory authorization to collect such information.”
Messer also noted: “This Legislature has never given this authorization.”
On Friday, Messer’s Missouri Family Network issued an e-mail alert accusing the department of implementing its new licensing procedures “in direct violation of Missouri State Statues and is once again violating your personal privacy rights!”
Revenue spokesman Ted Farnen declined to comment on the law-violation accusation.
Instead, he said: “The new design of the Missouri driver license and central issue process of distribution has been in development for more than three years.
“The changes in the actual driver license and the issuance process are being put in place to protect Missouri citizens from criminals who want to produce forged copies of driver licenses and non-driver IDs in order to steal or manufacture identities.”
Messer complained to the Senate committee Wednesday that the new licensing procedures include having the new license mailed to the applicant, rather than being issued in the licensing office.
“(That) is one thing we dealt with years ago to quit mailing driver’s licenses because of problems with that,” he said. “Now we’re throwing that away, and we’re using a vendor from a federal contract.
“The point is, the ground rules are being changed and this Legislature has never authorized these changes.”
In an e-mail earlier this month, Farnen answered a previous News Tribune question about the new process of mailing the new licenses: “This is the same procedure used to deliver other important government documents such as Social Security cards and passports. Even private companies use the same system.”
He also noted: “The production of driver licenses, especially modern ones that have lots of security features in them, is not a simple task that can be accomplished at just any printer or at the local Kinko’s.
“Not only is unique, highly sophisticated equipment required, but heavy security measures are also needed to make sure that the facility where the production takes place is secure.”
He said last month that the department received two bids from out-of-state companies — and none from Missouri companies.
Ultimately, the contract went to MorphoTrust USA, near Boston. It has six production plants — Missouri’s licenses are produced in suburban Atlanta, at “a highly secure facility that is not open to the public,” Farnen said, along with “licenses for many other states.”
He said the new equipment needed for the “central issue process” will be installed in all license offices by mid-April.
Kraus said his bill would help protect Missourians’ privacy.
“In 2012, (there were) 11.6 million cases of identity theft” in the nation, he told the committee. “In South Carolina, 3.6 million residents are currently at risk because the Department of Revenue database was hacked into.”
Messer added: “We can pretend all day long that all government data is safe from hacking.
“But we know we’d be lying to ourselves.”
Both Messer and Farnen refer Missourians with questions to the Revenue Department’s “frequently asked questions,” online at http://dor.mo.gov/faq/drivers/newlook.php.
Messer’s e-mails also provide a link to the federal Homeland Security department’s website about “Enhanced Driver’s Licenses,” at http://www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they.