JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Republicans bristling over new procedures for issuing driver's licenses also are expressing fears that the state's new policy will lead to compliance with federal rules they loathe even more.
By CHRIS BLANK
The Associated Press
Lawmakers in Jefferson City have objected and legislated against Real ID, a federal law passed in 2005 by fellow Republicans in Washington in the midst of national security concerns following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Real ID Act requires identification cards to meet standards to enter federal buildings or board commercial flights.
Meanwhile, license office clerks in Missouri already are scanning applicants' personal documents into a computer instead of simply reviewing them. Digital documents are sent electronically to be retained in a state data center. Basic information needed to produce identification cards is sent to contractor MorphoTrust USA, which produces the license and mails it to the applicant.
State officials say centralized printing saves money and provides an opportunity to find fraudulent applications before issuing the license. MorphoTrust USA says it does not share data it receives and that the information automatically is deleted after verification of a license's accuracy.
But critics' displeasure with the procedure prompted a lawsuit in southeastern Missouri. And separately, the state Senate now is reviewing thousands of documents provided by the Department of Revenue through a subpoena.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon this past week denied that his administration is implementing Real ID, telling reporters state government is not “collecting a bunch of un-useful data to send to some sort of magical database someplace to mess with people.”
The 2005 federal measure was supported by U.S. Rep James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and included in a military spending bill signed by Republican President George W. Bush. Licenses from states that fail to meet the law's standards eventually would not be eligible to be used for boarding airplanes or entering federal buildings. The Department of Homeland Security said it determined 19 states have met the requirements as of Feb. 25. In January, the federal agency gave deferments for at least six months.
“There are different viewpoints, different schools of thoughts as to when does the national security interest kind of rub up against liberty and freedoms that we all enjoy, and so I think it's been an issue we continue to grapple with as a nation,” said Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.
Missouri has for years been adjusting and discussing driver's licenses procedures.
The state began requiring people obtaining or renewing a license to show proof of “lawful presence” in July 2005. It also stipulated that licenses for non-citizens must expire when their legal presence in the country ends. The state measure was passed before Real ID, and supporters said it was approved with an eye toward possible terrorists and those in the country illegally.
In 2007, the Missouri Legislature approved a resolution pledging to protect civil rights and liberties and urging Congress to repeal Real ID. Two years later, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law prohibiting changes to Missouri's driver's license procedures to comply with Real ID and requiring state government to protect residents' privacy.
Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin congressman, said in 2005 after Real ID passed that it “is vital to preventing foreign terrorists from hiding in plain sight while conducting their operations and planning attacks.”
All but one of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had U.S. identification, some of which were fraudulent, according to the Sept. 11 commission. The commission recommended the federal government set standards for birth certificates and other identification documents, including driver's licenses.
Under the Bush administration in June 2008, the Department of Homeland Security announced Missouri had been picked for a $17 million grant to lead development of a verification hub that would allow motor vehicle departments to verify source documents for driver's licenses. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said “Americans overwhelmingly want secure identification.”
Missouri ultimately decided not to become “a verification hub” and never received the funding, the state Revenue Department said.
The involvement of fellow Republicans with Real ID has not muted Missouri Republicans.
“Those were Republicans in Washington D.C. And no matter who's in control – whether they're Republicans or Democrats in Washington D.C. – I don't generally agree with a lot of their proposals, especially when it's a one-size-fits-all model pushed down upon the rest of the country,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.
“I don't think Real ID is a good idea.”
Chris Blank has covered state government and politics for The Associated Press since 2005. Follow him at http://twitter.com/ChrisBlank2