Missouri Senate
97th General Assembly
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Bob Dixon

Serving the People of the
30th Senatorial District

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Senator Bob Dixon
Missouri Senate
State Capitol, Room 332
201 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101



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Respecting and Upholding the Rule of Law

The Budget Process


Last week, I mentioned the Senate has begun working on the proposed state budget recently passed by the House. Even before the appropriations bills reach the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee conducts department budget hearings. This past week, the Appropriations Committee has been busy "marking up" the bills. After the full Senate approves its version of the budget, the bills will be returned to House for acceptance or a request for conference to settle differences. The deadline for the two chambers to reconcile their differences and send a budget to the governor will be Friday, May 10.    


The budget process is always a complex one, but there has been an added dimension to this year's process. The Senate has been investigating allegations of possible misuse of Missourians' personal information by the Department of Revenue. If these allegations were confined to a single state agency or department, it would be disturbing enough. However, the matter has continued to grow in scope and seriousness.  

Ongoing Investigation of DOR Procedures


The investigation was prompted by a lawsuit in Stoddard County challenging new procedures being used by the Missouri Department of Revenue. These procedures require all supporting documents for driver and nondriver licenses -- including birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage licenses and certificates of qualification for concealed carry endorsement -- to be scanned and retained in a state database for verification. At the same time, your personal information is shared with a third-party, out-of-state company for production of the actual licenses. It also became clear that these new procedures reflected requirements of the federal Real ID law and had been paid for in part by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant designated for Real ID implementation.  In 2009, the General Assembly passed and the governor signed a law prohibiting state departments from taking measures to comply with the Real ID Act. The chair of the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) -- on which I serve as a member -- has also raised pointed questions about whether the DOR improperly sidestepped the state rulemaking process by implementing the procedures without filing a proposed regulation, also a violation of state law. Our state laws are designed to provide public notice and comment on proposed agency regulations, as well as oversight through JCAR. Throughout this period, clear answers have been hard to get.       


As a result, the Senate took the extraordinary step of issuing a subpoena to the Department of Revenue to produce documents relating to information sharing of biometric data and concealed carry endorsements. On April 2, the department delivered sixteen boxes of information to the Senate Appropriations chair, with thirty-four more boxes available for review. This information include a letter from the former DOR director to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, documenting Missouri's compliance with the requirements of the federal Real ID law. Questions during subsequent committee hearings also led to the admission that the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) had twice given a list of approximately 163,000 Missourians with concealed carry permits to an agent with the federal Social Security Administration. The first instance occurred in November 2011, while the second happened in January of this year. State law also designates information about concealed carry weapons permits as confidential.     


As the Appropriations Committee hearings continue, the Senate has indicated that the DOR budget will not be finalized until necessary action is taken on these matters. Last Tuesday, the full Senate gave initial approval to Senate Bill 252, which would prohibit the DOR from creating a database of people's personal documents and require it to destroy securely all the information already in the state computer systems.  It would also remove the Department of Revenue from the concealed carry permit process.   

Recent Developments


The situation continues to develop daily. This week, the administration announced that the Department of Revenue will end its policy of scanning or keeping documents related to CCW endorsements. The announcement came on the heels of the resignation of DOR Director Brian Long. However, resignations alone do not resolve the matter. It's a larger issue of attitudes, not just individuals. No one person can serve as a scapegoat for this dangerous violation of the public trust and blatant disregard for the rule of law.  

Past Activities

As I mentioned, if this sort of activity were confined to a single state agency or department, it would be disturbing enough. However, there is a clear, deeply troubling pattern of this administration testing or skirting the legal limits of the executive branch. Over the past few years, this administration has taken significant action without the involvement or authorization of the General Assembly on several occasions, without any public policy discussion about whether such actions were the right thing to do:  

  • The governor withholding appropriated funds from core functions like public education or the courts without state revenues falling short of projections, as required by the state constitution;
  • The governor circumventing the Senate's duty to provide "advice and consent" on the appointment of senior administration officials by making "acting" or "temporary" appointments;
  • Missouri Health Insurance Pool (MHIP) consideration of federal grant money despite legislative intent to the contrary;
  • An application by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for a federal grant that would require establishment of a quality rating system without the necessary legislative authorization.

Finally, within the last nine months, the Missouri Department of Social Services has made an abrupt shift away from its previous practice of releasing information after a child fatality or near fatality, as permitted by law. This disclosure law, passed during my time in the House, was prompted by events in southwest Missouri. The legislature's intent in passing the law was the improvement of our system for investigating child abuse and neglect. We felt children and families were best served when the opportunity to review actions made these cases was present. However, beginning in June, after a case in Kansas City, officials have routinely denied requests that would have been granted in previous years.    

Public Trust and the Rule of Law

No matter the party or policy, these are matters of grave concern. The real issue here is whether this behavior -- these serious breaches of the public trust -- will continue unchecked, or whether the administration will respect and uphold the rule of law and act in an open and accountable manner. That is why the drafters of our state constitution placed constitutional limitations on state government and distributed its authority between different branches, so each could act as a check on the other and better protect the rights and liberties of Missouri citizens. After all, that is why we are here, serving you.