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State lawmakers tackle impact of Real ID Act

January 26, 2016
In The News

State Rep. Patricia Pike hosted an information session with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler that touched on a wide range of topics. And while the bulk of the time was spent on federal issues, Rep. Pike gave everyone a brief update on the Legislature's efforts in grappling with the impact of the Real ID Act and its effect on Missouri residents.

President George W. Bush signed the Real ID Act after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks raised questions about fraudulent drivers' licenses. Real ID, which went into effect in 2005, requires states to retain copies of documents proving individuals' identities, such as birth certificates, as well as applicants' license photos.

Initially, about half the state legislatures had passed measures opposing the implementation of the Real ID Act. Opposition has come from both Democrats and Republicans, who fear that it represents the first step toward a national ID system. Opponents also cite privacy concerns, as the biometric data from driver's license photos was to be stored in a federal database.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law in 2009 that barred the Missouri Department of Revenue from complying with Real ID.

Missouri is one of five states, along with Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington and the territory of American Samoa, to lose a federal exemption from complying with the national proof-of-identity requirements.

A letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Missouri informed the state that its exemption from federal Real ID requirements was coming to an end Jan. 10.

Possible impacts include Missouri driver's licenses not being accepted as ID at military bases and most other federal facilities. It also could eventually mean that Missouri driver's licenses won't be accepted as identification for commercial airline flights.

States originally were supposed to comply with the Real ID requirements by the end of 2009. Federal authorities have repeatedly delayed implementation to give time for states to change their driver's license procedures and make the necessary technological improvements.

That may be ending. According to published reports Homeland Security also has been reviewing whether to grant a compliance exemption to Alaska, California, New Jersey and South Carolina.

Nineteen other states recently received an extension of their compliance exemptions, most running until Oct. 16.

The Homeland Security Department has said it plans to announce soon whether it will begin enforcing the Real ID requirements for airplane travel.

The department has said it will provide at least 120-day notice before barring people from flights who have driver's licenses from states that are noncompliant or lack a waiver.

"As we continue the phased-in enforcement of the Real ID Act, the consequences of continued noncompliance will grow with each milestone," the department said in its letter to Missouri, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

A Department of Defense official said in a statement that DoD installations are now prohibited from accepting driver's licenses or state ID cards from non-compliant states.

However, the official noted that the requirement could be waived for special situations, circumstances, or emergencies."

Missouri lawmakers are considering changes.

Efforts in the legislature include a bill that would repeal the state law prohibiting Missouri from complying with the federal Real ID Act. Under that bill, Missouri residents could choose between a driver's license that meets Real ID requirements and one that does not.

Other legislation being considered would still prevent the state from issuing Real ID-compliant drivers' licenses, but residents could also apply for an identification card that meets federal standards.

According to various press outlets, two of the bills involve emergency clauses that would put the measures into place as soon as they are signed into law.

Rep. Pike said legislative efforts also included seeking a two-year waiver for time to meet the ID requirement, as well as possibly a two-tiered ID, that would provide access to federal buildings and military bases so families can attend events like graduations.