JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pointed to privacy concerns Tuesday in vetoing a proposed online database that businesses could use to check a prospective employee's workers' compensation claims.
Nixon said in a message explaining the veto that such a database is "an affront to the privacy of our citizens and does not receive my approval." The Democratic governor added in a written statement that there is a "stark contrast" between lawmakers' action and statements on privacy issues, alluding to the recent dispute between the Republican-led legislature and his administration over the practice of making electronic copies of birth certificates and other personal documents from people applying for driver's licenses.
"While professing to champion privacy rights, this General Assembly quietly passed a bill to create — and allow broad access to — a new electronic database containing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Missourians," Nixon said. He added: "Invading Missourians' privacy will not grow our economy or move our state forward."
Earlier this week, Nixon signed a law that reverses his administration's 6-month-old policy of making electronic copies of personal documents from driver's license applicants. State lawmakers had convened several investigatory committees looking into the process.
The workers' compensation legislation vetoed by Nixon would have permitted an employer to provide a potential hire's name and Social Security number to identify the date of workers' compensation claims and whether the claim is open or closed. The state Division of Workers' Compensation estimated an online database initially would include 554,000 claim records, with about 13,000 records added each year.
Sen. Mike Cunningham, who sponsored the legislation, referenced the driver's license dispute while criticizing Nixon's veto.
"I find it interesting that the governor is suddenly interested in privacy when his administration has been breaking the law in the Department of Revenue scandal," said Cunningham, R-Rogersville.
Among the issues lawmakers have examined regarding the driver's licensing procedures has been whether Nixon's administration sought to comply with the federal 2005 Real ID Act setting criteria for photo-identification cards to be accepted at airports and federal buildings. Missouri passed a 2009 law barring the state from adopting policies to comply with it because of concerns that the federal government was overreaching. The Revenue Department said its licensing procedures meet or exceed the Real ID Act but insists the agency implemented them for the state's own security goals.
Supporters of the workers' comp database said the legislation could speed the hiring process and help bosses and workers. Cunningham said information about workers' compensation claims is available by written request and takes about two weeks to receive. He said the legislation was aimed at preventing workers' compensation abuses and that an electronic database would have brought Missouri into the 21st century.
The Missouri AFL-CIO said the veto supports workers.
"The bill would have unfairly given employers online access to personal data of Missouri workers injured on the job," Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Mike Louis said. "Our state elected officials should work to make workplaces safer not violate privacy rights of hardworking Missourians."
Cunningham said he will speak with colleagues before deciding whether to attempt to override Nixon's veto. The legislation won approval in the Senate 32-0 and in the House by a vote of 91-67, short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Nixon's veto and enact the law. State lawmakers return to the state Capitol in September.