State Lawmakers Grill Department of Revenue Officials

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection heard testimony from officials with the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) Wednesday. The hearing revolved around the department's creation of a digital database of anyone applying for, or renewing drivers licenses. 

County sheriffs and state representatives questioned DOR officials on whether or not the department is attempting to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. A 2009 Missouri law prohibits the DOR from complying with REAL ID. The department has continued to deny efforts to comply. Osage County Sheriff Michael Dixon--a Republican--presented documents to Jackie Bemboom,the director of motor vehicles and licensing for the DOR. The document was sent to the federal government by the department and is titled the "REAL ID Checklist." Dixon said the amount of benchmarks reached on the list is indicative of an attempt to comply with REAL ID.

"Out of these 39 items that [show REAL ID compliance], do you know how many you are in compliance with?" asked Dixon. "How about 34?"

Bemboom  that the checklist was simply to show the federal government that Missouri licensing procedures are secure and "comparable" to REAL ID, but not to show compliance with REAL ID. Bemboom said the advantage to showing licensing procedures in Missouri are comparable to REAL ID standards is so Missouri licenses would be con sired valid the federal government. Once REAL ID is fully implemented, licenses from states not in compliance will be considered invalid for some purposes, such as use for admittance on commercial airline flights.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said the biggest shock to him is that Bemboom claims the actions taken by the department are comparable and not compliant with REAL ID.

"Embarrassing enough for them it was even called Federal REAL ID grant at one time," Cox said.

The Department is using money from a federal government REAL ID grant to take the pictures used for state licenses, but Bemboom said the money from the grant may be used for other purposes.

"When we talked to the federal government, it wasn't too comply with REAL ID Act," Bemboom said. "There are other states that also received money that are prohibited from complying with REAL ID Act."

Nixon has claimed the database has been blown out of proportion as an attempt by the legislature to divert public attention from not expanding Medicaid to the federally-recommended level under the Affordable Care Act.

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