JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Lawmakers trying to comply with a federal law outlining strict proof-of-identity requirements for driver's licenses and state identification cards said they're hopeful a plan will be sent to the governor's desk by a Friday deadline.
Missouri is one of only five states that don't comply or have an extension to comply with the Real ID Act, a 2005 federal law that established tougher licensing requirements in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lawmakers have long pushed back on the law's stringent requirements, citing privacy concerns, meaning that current Missouri licenses won't be accepted forms of ID to board planes or enter military sites starting next year.
But after several hours of debate, the Missouri Senate voted 28-5 early Wednesday morning to give Missouri residents the option to get state driver's licenses and identification cards that either comply or don't comply with the federal law. The legislation now heads to the House, where sponsor Rep. Kevin Corlew said he's hopeful it will pass by Friday, the deadline for all legislation to be approved by both chambers.
"Given the shortness of time, we want to make sure that we get this implemented for Missouri citizens," said Corlew, a Kansas City Republican. "This is the best path forward."
The federal law was passed under former President George W. Bush in response to the terrorist attacks. The FBI determined the Sept. 11 hijackers obtained valid identification cards from various states, and a commission that reported on the attacks recommended the federal government develop standards for issuing identification cards as a way to help prevent terrorism and fraud.
Current state law doesn't allow Missouri to issue so-called Real IDs, and lawmakers have resisted changing that policy because the act requires the state to create a database with copies of documents such as birth certificates.
If the state doesn't make changes, residents won't be able to use Missouri identification cards to board planes or enter some federal facilities, such as military bases, without extra documentation or a passport starting in 2018.
Still, that hasn't swayed some skeptics.
"This bill is bigger government, and it is intruding into the lives of our citizens," said Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee's Summit Republican and one of the staunchest critics of the Real ID Act. "It is taking their private information and putting it in a national database."
Debate in the Senate started on Tuesday. After private negotiations, senators added changes to the legislation aimed at protecting people's information and soothing critics and approved the bill shortly after midnight.
Those tweaks include requiring copies of documents be kept on a system that's not connected to the internet in order to prevent possible hacking. Another change would make compliant IDs free for residents who have an unexpired license and want to upgrade.
Corlew said those changes and other amendments could up the cost of implementing the bill, but said they generally improved the proposal. He said he expects colleagues in the House will be open to passing the changed bill.
A previous version passed the chamber 99-40 in March.
If approved by the House, the bill will head to Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who has said he supports giving Missouri residents options that will allow them to access to air travel and military bases.