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Protecting Our Privacy

It was a busy week in the state Capitol and much of my focus was on allegations that the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) is scanning and disseminating our private information to external parties and possibly the federal government. If you’ve followed the news, you have likely seen that a Stoddard County resident filed a lawsuit against the department after they told him it was a requirement to scan and save his “source documents” (birth certificate, social security card, marriage license, divorce decree, utility bill, etc.) in order to add his concealed carry status to his driver’s license. He believes, as do I, that the state has no business keeping electronic copies of this information, and certainly has no right to send the information to companies that operate outside of Missouri, as seems to be the current practice.

Representatives from DOR answered questions in the Capitol this week about this fiasco; making matters worse by being evasive, changing their story, and frankly “lying” as described by Senator Schaefer, who held a hearing with DOR on Monday. This is especially concerning given the fact the White House has made it clear it wants to establish a federal gun owner database, and the new equipment that is currently being installed in local license offices has reportedly been provided through a grant with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

To combat this situation, we are pursuing several avenues. I have sponsored HB818 that will further protect our 2nd Amendment rights, and prevent state agencies from creating or assisting the federal government to compile information relating to firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories. Todd Richardson has filed HB787 (which I am co-sponsoring) that would prohibit DOR from scanning personal documents and transferring them to an out-of-state database. Together, these measures send a strong message that the Missouri House is ready to defend the privacy rights of all Missourians. Following Spring Break, these bills will be heard in committee, and quickly moved to the House floor.

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I took the opportunity to send a message to the department by cutting the Director’s administrative budget by $85,000. In addition, I also offered an amendment cutting $3,000,000 from the Office of Administration, Information Technology Services Division (OAITSD) in their contracting with Morpho Trust (Atlanta based company receiving data from DOR, and provider of the new equipment), while reallocating $1,500,000 of the cut to school transportation funding (which could definitely use the help). After discussing this amendment, it is being held pending the receipt of further (more timely and hopefully accurate) information from DOR, and will likely be offered from the House floor as the budgets are amended and passed from the House. This entire situation has been disturbing; including the lack of answers, lies, and the threat of having our privacy violated. This representative is doing all that I can to correct the issue (in several venues).

Burdensome New Federal Animal ID Requirements Take Effect

This week also saw new animal identification requirements kick in here in Missouri, dubbed “Animal Disease Traceability”, or ADT. These burdensome new regulations have been handed down from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and represent an extra step that will ultimately cost livestock owners, at a time they can least afford.

The new regulations put in place require animals that are to be shipped out of state to be inspected, registered, and tagged by a veterinarian -only-, as producers are not trusted to perform their own tagging. What the federal government hopes to accomplish with this is to make it easier to trace animals in the event of an outbreak of disease. However, this has actually produced yet another burdensome regulation for our hardworking farm families, and frankly smells of Federal government control.

I am disappointed that our state agriculture department did such a poor job of making Missourians aware, and in accepting this change. It’s my understanding that many sale barns were caught completely unaware when the new rule went into place on March 11. This situation is similar to many others that we’re familiar with, in that the USDA threatens to withhold funding and isolate our markets without our compliance. This is a great example of how government should not conduct business and another example in how an overreaching government is a bad thing.

At this time, the change is exclusive to dairy cattle, although the USDA plans to expand the program to include beef cattle in the future (both of which I adamantly oppose!). Over the past week I’ve had a number of conversations with producers, sale barn owners, Missouri Department of Agriculture representatives (including the Director), and other legislators regarding the current situation and our best path forward. Stay tuned, as this (and several other) issues continue to develop in what the first half of session could be termed, “Our push back against the Federal Government.”

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