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Missouri DOR ordered to cancel records fee hike
ST. LOUIS (6/5/08)--A Missouri Circuit Court judge ordered the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) to cancel a fee increase for state driver and motor vehicle records. The DOR raised its fees from $1.25 to $7 per record and eliminated bulk discounts on record purchases May 1, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) (CourierNet June 4). MCUA is monitoring the situation. It has been advised by DOR that the fee remains at $7 at the present time, MCUA said. The fee hike proposal prompted Carfax--a company that provides vehicle histories for consumers buying used autos--to threaten to stop serving Missouri customers (News Now May 13). R.L. Polk & Co., Carfax's parent company, has used the title and registration data to compile vehicle history reports for the Carfax service, which is offered in some credit unions. Car buyers pay $30 to use the database for 30 days. The increase would cost Carfax $42 million more than what it pays for data from all 50 states and Canada combined. Several companies that routinely purchase these records sued DOR, saying the agency violated the state’s Sunshine Law. DOR representatives argue that driver and motor-vehicle records are not open records and not covered by the Sunshine Law. Missouri’s Sunshine Law states that “meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.” The law sets out the specific instances when a meeting, record or vote may be closed, while stressing these exceptions are to be strictly interpreted to promote the public policy of openness, according to the Missouri Attorney General office website. DOR’s defense was rejected by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan, in a ruling that said the phrase “public records” should include all government records--public and private. He issued a preliminary injunction. On June 20, the Cole County Circuit Court will hear the case again to consider other facts and decide whether to cancel the fee increase permanently. During the 2008 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill that would limit fees to $0.005 per bulk record. However, Gov. Matt Blunt has not signed the bill into law yet, said MCUA.


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