The leader of the Missouri House said Monday that he is creating a special commission to investigate the state's decision to make electronic copies of people's personal documents under a new anti-fraud procedure that Republicans contend violates the privacy of applicants for driver's licenses and state identification cards.
House Speaker Tim Jones said he wants the panel of law enforcement officials and other experts to report to him by Sept. 1 with recommendations for new laws. He also wants the panel to provide details about who decided to start making electronic copies of people's birth certificates and concealed gun permits late last year, and who decided that a separate list of permit holders could be released to a federal fraud investigator.
The new commission ensures that the Republican-led Legislature can continue to hammer against the licensing procedures adopted by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's administration long after the annual legislative session ends May 17. Legislative committees in both chambers already have held their own hearings on the licensing policies that included sworn testimony last week from a federal agent who appeared at the Missouri Capitol under a Senate subpoena.
"What's left is for the
governor to agree that there was a problem and that we need to come up with a solution," Jones said at a Capitol news conference.
Shortly after last week's testimony by a fraud investigator in the U.S. Social Security Administration, Nixon's administration revealed that someone using a House computer had attempted 23 times last Thursday to access a state file-sharing Internet site that had once contained a list of concealed gun permit holders sought by the agent. Nixon's administration said the House attempt was unauthorized, because concealed gun permit information is only supposed to be accessible to law enforcement. It issued an open-records request to the House seeking details about the incident.
Jones, R-Eureka, declined on Monday to identify the person who tried to access the Internet site but said it was "laughable" for Nixon's administration to suggest the action was inappropriate. He asserted that Nixon's administration may have violated state law by attempting to share the full concealed-carry list, which the federal agent ultimately did not download.
"The very creation of that log-in, the very creation of that password was unlawful," Jones said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So investigating unlawful activity is called evidence gathering, and that's exactly what the House did."
Nixon already has ordered a halt to the copying of concealed gun permits by local license clerks who are contractors with the Department of Revenue, but he has allowed the copying of other personal documents to continue. Lawmakers have pursued bills that would bar the state from making and keeping copies of license applicants' personal documents and would shift the duty for issuing concealed-carry identification cards to local sheriffs.
Jones said the new commission could provide useful facts and guidance, even if lawmakers pass those bills before the panel's work is complete.
He said the commission will include Stoddard County Prosecutor Russ Oliver, who filed a lawsuit earlier this year in his capacity as a private attorney challenging the new licensing procedures. Others panel members will include sheriffs Stuart Miller of Audrain County and Oliver "Glenn" Boyer of Jefferson County; Randolph County Prosecutor Mike Fusselman; former Department of Revenue Director Omar Davis; and former Rep. Gary Fuhr of St. Louis, a retired FBI agent. Jones said he may also appoint current lawmakers to the commission.