In spite of Republican lawmakers' claims that Missouri's Revenue department is violating state law by implementing the federal "Real ID Act," and giving Missourians' personal information to the federal government, Gov. Jay Nixon told reporters Wednesday: "It's not happening, OK? ...
"This Department of Revenue and this state of Missouri is not collecting a bunch of unuseful data to send to some sort of magical database some place, to mess with people."
At a news conference called to discuss Nixon's rare meeting with the House Republican Caucus on Medicaid, the governor said lawmakers' focus on the Revenue department's new procedures for issuing driver's licenses and concealed weapons permits is a distraction.
"I think there's a lot of loose language going on out there in the whole thing," Nixon said, "but I'm not involved with it. It's not my deal."
GOP leaders in the House and Senate, as well as some interest groups, have accused Revenue officials of copying, and keeping, birth certificate and other personal information, then sharing the information with the federal government.
Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he hoped someone from the governor's office, and outside the Revenue department, would look at the issue and offer some help.
Asked about that, Nixon said: "But they're (Revenue) just not doing it. You know that and I know that.
"We're at a time in which a lot of people like to have a lot of discussions about that, and play into folks' concerns about this and that, and then throw around names and all that sort of stuff."
After federal prosecutors charged nearly 20 people for helping obtain Missouri licenses for as many as 3,500 people living in the U.S. illegally, the Revenue department last November announced a new licensing procedure, eliminating Missourians' ability to go to their local license office, fill out the application and get a new picture taken, then get their new license after a few minutes.
Instead, the state sends the information to an Atlanta-area processor that makes the new license, then mails it back to Missouri in a process similar to the one used by many credit card companies.
The department has said the new procedure is more secure.
Opponents say it's less secure and more subject to having personal information stolen or shared with the federal government.
The U.S. Homeland Security department's website shows Missouri is one of 34 states that have submitted a Real ID "package and status update" - but it is not among the states that have fully implemented the program that sets stringent proof-of-identity requirements for photo IDs.
GOP leaders say the listing shows Missouri is complying with the federal law.
"We passed a bill several years ago that addressed what the state's position is on Real ID - the executive branch was not to take action, any action, to comply with the federal Real ID Act," Dempsey said last week.
"And, what we continue to hear from DoR is that they entered into a grant with Homeland Security and that they've been implementing the Real ID Act counter to state law."
Nixon said Wednesday: "We're not moving forward on trying to implement Real ID.
"I signed a measure directly on that, and we're following the law that I signed."
The Associated Press contributed information to this story.