Government & Politics

Greitens signs Real ID legislation, putting Missouri in compliance with federal law

Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday signed legislation that will bring Missouri into compliance with the Real ID Act while giving an out to those worried about the federal law.

The bill, which goes into effect Aug. 28, allows those who wish to get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to do so. Those with concerns about the Real ID law will be permitted to get a license that doesn’t comply with the federal regulations.

The hybrid system was designed to appease opponents of the bill, who cited privacy concerns for resisting implementation of the federal law.

“Hands down, this was the most frequently asked about issue among my constituents,” said Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican who sponsored the bill. “Whether it was people calling or writing the office, or every time I was home, people would just walk up to me and ask if this was going to get fixed.”

The heightened interest stemmed from the fact that Missouri faced a January deadline to get into compliance with the federal law. If it hadn’t done so, Missourians would have no longer been able to use a driver’s license to board a commercial airplane or enter certain federal buildings or military bases.

Instead, they would have had to provide a passport or some other form of federally approved ID.

The bill signed Monday will avoid that scenario.

“This measure ensures that Missourians will be able to use a driver’s license to fly or visit a military base,” Greitens said in a statement. He signed the bill during a visit to Whiteman Air Force Base near Warrensburg.

Missourians won’t have to run out to get a new license immediately. The Missouri Department of Revenue has estimated it will take two years to 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.

Opponents of the federal law, primarily in the Missouri Senate, vowed to block the measure out of concerns that it would represent a major violation of Missourians’ privacy rights. Among the requirements of the federal law 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.

Opposition to the bill was emboldened in late March when Greitens told reporters that he had spoken with members of President Donald Trump’s administration about Real ID and that they “may be considering a change. If that change happens, then the IDs that we have today will actually be functional for people to fly.”

The governor’s comments echoed those of Senate critics of Real ID, who argued lawmakers shouldn’t move forward with any Real ID bill until the Trump administration had had a chance to take action.

Ultimately, Senate leaders agreed to a handful of concessions that avoided a threatened filibuster and allowed the bill to make it to Greitens’ desk.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock