Lawmakers in the Missouri House and Senate are asking Attorney General Josh Hawley to take action to prevent the federal government from imposing sanctions on the state for failure to comply with the REAL ID act.
Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican, circulated a letter among Senate members calling on Hawley to “help prevent the encroachment of the federal government’s REAL ID Act of 2005, which we sincerely believe violates our Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
As of Wednesday morning, nine Republican senators had signed the letter.
In the Missouri House, a similar letter was circulated by Republican Reps. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville and Paul Curtman of Union, although they declined to say how many of their colleagues had signed on.
Both versions of the letter were delivered to Hawley Wednesday afternoon.
The Real ID Act is a 2005 law that was passed by Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush setting minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses.
The commission formed to study the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concluded that the country would be safer if there were minimum standards for the government-issued forms of identification, such as driver’s licenses, that are required to enter federal buildings or board commercial airplanes.
Among the requirements that Missouri is not currently meeting: Documents used to obtain a driver’s license, such as a birth certificate or Social Security card, must be scanned and stored in a database. Each state must agree to share its database of licensed drivers with other states.
Kansas driver’s licenses are already in compliance. Missouri is one of nine states that aren’t compliant.
Privacy concerns inspired Missouri lawmakers to pass a law in 2009 prohibiting the state from complying with the Real ID Act. Four years later, when it was discovered the Missouri Department of Revenue was scanning and storing documents, lawmakers passed another bill specifically outlawing the practice.
If the state doesn’t get into compliance with the law by next January, Missourians may not be able to use their driver’s license to board a commercial airplane or set foot in certain federal buildings or military bases.
The letter to Hawley states that the people of Missouri “want their privacy” and do not want “arbitrary conditions set forth by the government under the guise of security.”
“In a time of increasingly dangerous threats to our national and personal security, both physically and where our privacy is concerned, it is paramount we work even harder to protect and secure the liberty and personal freedom of the people rather than forfeit them in exchange for a bigger all-knowing government that promises to help us,” the letter states.
Hawley could file a lawsuit, Kraus said, or reach out to the federal government as the legal representative of the state to explain why Missouri doesn’t wish to comply.
Other lawmakers have filed legislation trying to strike a middle ground, allowing Missourians who are wary of the Real ID law to be able to get a driver’s license that doesn’t align with all of the federal regulations. Those who have no qualms with the standards would receive a different license.
Brattin expressed his opposition to the bill, saying it creates “a second-class citizen.”
Kraus said he hopes the Senate will delay debating the bill up until after legislative spring break in March to see if the federal law may be changed under the new administration of President Donald Trump.
Hawley’s office confirmed that he had received the letters and is reviewing them. He made pushing back against the federal government a key part of his successful 2016 campaign, and he’s already filed lawsuits challenging federal regulations, such as former President Barack Obama’s order to expand the nation’s overtime rules to cover about 4 million more workers.