Revenue Department Defends License Data Use

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JEFFERSON CITY - Controversy over the state's use of drivers' license data came to a head Wednesday as a Senate committee questioned Department of Revenue officials.

Much of Wednesday morning's discussion centered around a letter from December 12, obtained by the Senate through a subpoena, from then-department director Alana Barragan-Scott to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. KOMU 8 News obtained a copy of the letter from the office of Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. The letter includes several pages marked "REAL ID Act of 2005-Benchmark Checklist," which purport to show the department's progress in meeting a series of criteria established by the federal 2005 REAL ID Act, which requires states to ask for several official documents to confirm someone's identity every time they apply for a state-issued ID such as a driver's license. The checklist purports to show Missouri is in full or partial compliance with all of the provisions specified by the REAL ID Act. A number of states including Missouri have passed laws barring their licensing agencies from complying with the act.

Department of Revenue leaders told the Senate Appropriations Committee the agency is not trying to comply with the REAL ID Act. Jackie Bemboom, the director of the agency's Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Division, said the department was trying to show the Department of Homeland Security how Missouri was securing drivers' license data. She said the agency does not want Missourians to be denied access to airline flights because their state is not REAL ID compliant.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he wasn't convinced the agency was not trying to comply with REAL ID. He said the larger issue is that the Department of Revenue may be violating Missourians' right to privacy. During the hearing, Schaefer accused the Department of Revenue officials of ducking his committee's questions.

"In my opinion, your DMV budget is at zero. Zero," Schaefer said.

Under the new procedures, Department of Revenue representatives told the committee, everyone must provide a birth certificate, proof of residence, such as a utility bill, and a social security number when they apply for a state id. All of these documents are scanned and stored in a central database. In addition, photos are taken of applicants and scanned for data such as facial structure.

John Mollenkamp, the department's executive director, said the new data collection procedure is needed to prevent fraud, citing a case in St. Joseph where an employee took bribes to provide false identity documents to more than 3,500 illegal immigrants. He said sending all of the data to a central clearinghouse adds a layer of protection against potential inside cases of fraud.

Testimony continued during the afternoon, with several committee members asking whether the department has the capability to list everyone in the state who has a concealed-carry endorsement. Bemboom and other representatives said it did. After repeated questioning from Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St Joseph, Bemboom said she believed an Office of Administration employee had told her requests have been made, though she added the agency has turned down all such requests to her knowledge.