Following allegations that the Missouri Department of Revenue was handing over concealed carry permit information to the federal government, the state Senate on Monday opted to hit the agency where it really hurts: the wallet.
The Senate has approved a tentative budget plan – House Bill 8 – that would completely defund the DoR’s driver’s license bureau, which receives upwards of $3.5 million annually and employs 37 full-time workers.
Instead of the DoR being in charge of CCW permit issuance that authority would be handed over to the Missouri sheriffs, who already run the background checks for applicants.
Also on the chopping block are the Department of Public Safety, $20 million in funding, and the computer technology division of the state Office of Administration, $9 million in funding, because of their role in the controversy.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer is leading the effort to sever the purse strings for these bureaucracies. He believes that the threat of these deep budget cuts will get government officials to start cooperating with a joint House-Senate investigation.
“I’m pretty confident that this will get someone’s attention … and we’ll start getting those answers,” he told Missouri Watchdog.org.
As Guns.com previously reported, lawmakers have reason to believe that the Revenue Department was turning over documents to DHS to satisfy the criteria of a grant that’s issued under the federal Real ID law, even though the legislature enacted a bill in 2009 that prohibits the state government from sharing certain personal information with the feds.
However, during hearings back in March, the DoR Director denied that the documents (birth certificates, passports) being scanned into the state database when one applied for a CCW or a driver’s license where being shared with the DHS.
“I was repeatedly and independently assured that these scanned source documents, as part of the license process, are not, nor is there any plans, to share them, again, with the federal government or any third-party vendor,” he said.
Long has since resigned from his position. While no official reason was given, it’s pretty clear that the growing public scrutiny over the sharing of information was the cause.
Now, public ire has turned toward Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who many believe should ultimately answer for the flap.
Along these lines, Nixon has been subpoenaed to testify in court. Russ Oliver, the attorney representing the plaintiff in the lawsuit (Eric Griffin, the man who broke the scanning scandal while attempting to get a CCW at a local DMV), explained the need for Nixon to appear in court after months of stonewalling investigators.
“This subpoena is not being issued to harass or vex the governor,” he said. “We just want the truth.”
Presumably Nixon’s answers in court and his willingness to cooperate moving forward will ultimately impact whether the Senate proceeds with the sharp budget cuts. To his credit, he’s already ordered the DoR to stop scanning records. But that may not be enough. And given that the deadline to finalize the 2014 budget is May 10, Nixon is running out of time to come clean. The clock is ticking.