A bill that would put the state in compliance with the federal Real ID Act cleared the Missouri House on Thursday on a 99-40 vote.
But the real fight was always going to be in the Missouri Senate, where critics have vowed to block the legislation over concerns the federal law is an infringement on privacy rights.
Missouri faces a January deadline to get into compliance with the federal law. If it does not, Missourians will no longer be able to use their driver’s license to board a commercial airplane or enter certain federal buildings or military bases.
Instead, they would have to have a passport.
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“We have this legislative session to do something,” said Rep. Kevin Corlew, a Kansas City Republican who sponsored the Real ID bill.
Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005 as part of the security response to the 9/11 attacks.
The law requires states to meet minimum requirements for driver’s licenses and other documents. 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.
Fueled by privacy concerns, Missouri lawmakers passed legislation 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 specifically outlawed the practice.
The bill approved Thursday would allow those who wish to get a Real ID-compliant license to do so. Those with concerns about the Real ID law could get a license that doesn’t comply with the federal regulations.
“This gives the people of Missouri a choice,” said Rep. Kevin Engler, a Farmington Republican.
But state Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, said the bill that would create “second-class citizens.”
“This is a complete infringement on our citizens’ constitutional rights,” he said, later adding: “It’s crazy to think we’re going down this road for the sake of convenience.”
Rep. Robert Ross, a Texas County Republican, said that even if getting a Real ID-compliant license is just an option, he’s confident those who don’t get one will one day be forced to comply.
“This is a pseudo choice,” Ross said.
Complicating Thursday’s debate was Gov. Eric Greitens’ comment earlier in the week that he had spoken with the Trump administration and it “may be considering a change. If that change happens, then the IDs that we have today will actually be functional for people to fly.”
Several of the bill’s critics latched onto the governor’s comments, saying the state need not pass the bill until the new president has had time to act.
But Corlew said the House vote had been delayed for a month to give the federal government time to act. It hasn’t, he said, and there is no indication that Trump will ever call for changing the law.
“None of our congressional leaders have told us anything to suggest there is any movement on the Real ID issue,” he said. “I can’t find that Donald Trump in a public setting has ever even discussed the Real ID Act.”
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, said it would be foolish to wait for the federal government to act.
“I’m not willing to trust Washington to fix this problem,” said Silvey, who is sponsoring the Real ID bill in the Senate. “I trust Missourians to make the right choice for themselves and their families.”
Opposition to the bill remains in the Senate, Silvey said.
“The people who want to kill it,” he said, “still want to kill it. But I’m confident we’ll get this done.”