Legislation putting Missouri in compliance with the federal Real ID law was approved by the state Senate early Wednesday morning.
On a 28-5 vote just after midnight, lawmakers approved a bill allowing those who wish to get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to do so. Those with concerns about the Real ID law would be permitted to get a license that doesn’t comply with the federal regulations.
The hybrid system was aimed at appeasing opponents of the bill, who have resisted implementation of the federal law over cited privacy concerns.
“We are providing our citizens a choice,” said Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican sponsoring the bill in the Senate. “This is the best way forward. It doesn’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do.”
The bill now heads back to the Missouri House, which must sign off on the Senate version and send it to Gov. Eric Greitens before the legislature adjourns at 6 p.m. Friday. Rep. Kevin Corlew, a Kansas City Republican sponsoring the bill in that chamber, said he expects the bill to easily clear the House before adjournment.
“We’ll get it done,” Corlew said. “I think the final product is a good bill that does what we set out to do, which is give Missourians an option to choose a Real ID-compliant license or not.”
The Real ID issue has been among the highest profile of the 2017 session.
That’s because Missouri faces a January 2018 deadline to get into compliance with the federal law. If it does not, Missourians will no longer be able to use a driver’s license to board a commercial airplane or enter certain federal buildings or military bases.
Instead, they would have to have a passport.
To avoid that scenario, lawmakers needed to change a state law that prohibits Missouri from complying with Real ID.
The Missouri House passed the legislation in March. But opponents in the Senate, led by Republican Sen. Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit, threatened to use the filibuster to prevent any Real ID bill from passing.
“I 100 percent hate this bill,” Kraus said Tuesday.
Congress approved the Real ID Act in 2005, following a recommendation from the commission formed to study the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The 9/11 Commission said 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 five states that currently 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.
Those same privacy concerns continue to stoke opposition today.
Kraus argued that compliance with the Real ID Act essentially creates a national ID card. Even if Missouri is given the option of allowing citizens to get noncompliant licenses now, he said, “the federal government will come back and do away with that exemption. They’ll move the goal posts.”
But after weeks of negotiations with the bill’s supporters, and with adjournment looming, Kraus agreed to stand down.
He did, however, extract a handful of concessions. For example, the bill now includes a mandate that the state can only store documents used to get a Real ID-compliant license on a server that isn’t connected to the internet.
“No one can hack into it because you have to be in the physical location of the server,” Kraus said.
The bill also includes a clause stating it will expire in five years, unless lawmakers renew the law.
Missourians won’t have to run out to get a new license immediately. The Missouri Department of Revenue has said it will take two years to get get the new system up and running. The state has been told the federal government will grant Missouri a waiver permitting those with current state-issued licenses to board planes and enter federal buildings during that time.
Despite the concessions, Kraus continues to oppose the bill.
“Republicans are supposed to be about smaller government, but Real ID creates a database that will only result in a larger, more intrusive government,” Kraus said. “It is one of the worst invasions of privacy the federal government has perpetrated on our citizens.”
Silvey said he understands critics of the bill are still not happy. But he’s pleased lawmakers were able to come to a resolution on the issue.
“It’s not what everybody wants,” he said, “but it does allow our citizens to decide for themselves.”