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Thursday, May 22, 2008


In significantly increasing the fees it charges for driver’s license and vehicle records, the Missouri Department of Revenue factored in costs that under state law it can’t pass on to purchasers, The Associated Press reported on May 21. The AP report was based on about 200 documents related to the fee hike it obtained from the department under the Sunshine Law.

Earlier this month the revenue department raised its fees to $7 per record. The department previously charged $1.25 for an individual record, with per-record costs of just a fraction of a penny for bulk purchases. Insurance companies and other businesses authorized to obtain the records used to pay $2,035 for the complete database of 4 million records; the full database now costs $28 million.

In setting the new fee at $7 per record, the department included the cost of purchasing and maintaining a new computer database and other expenses such as employee benefits and attorney fees. The Sunshine Law, however, says the only costs government agencies may impose is 10 cents a page for documents plus the actual cost for a clerical worker to retrieve the documents. According to a Dec. 21, 2006, document obtained by the AP, it takes just 3.5 minutes for department employee to process a record request for an actual staff-time cost of 67 cents.

In the closing days of the legislative session, the General Assembly added a provision to SB 711 that cut the revenue department’s fee for bulk purchases to a half-cent per record. The governor is expected to sign the bill, which also provides property tax relief for homeowners. Some companies that routinely purchased the records have also sued the department alleging its fees are excessive under Sunshine Law.

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