JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians may not be able to use their driver's licenses to board airplanes next year if state lawmakers don't take steps to make those IDs compliant with federal law.

Real ID is a national security standard placed on government-issued licenses. Missouri’s deadline is Jan. 22, 2018. Without a state-issued, Real ID-compliant license, Missourians will have to present alternate forms of identification when entering federal buildings, nuclear power plants or when flying domestically, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website. The most common form of acceptable ID is a passport.

Missouri is one of seven states with driver’s licenses that are not compliant with the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

To address the growing urgency of the impending deadline, the State Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard testimony at the Capitol on Thursday concerning proposed bills that would bring the state into compliance.  

It is a "ridiculous burden on the public" to not offer federally approved identification, said State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.

Two similar bills, introduced by Silvey and Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, offer an opt-out system as a solution to address privacy concerns. This allows Missouri’s Department of Registration to issue federally approved licenses, while also allowing Missourians who wish to opt-out to continue to utilize the current driver’s licenses, with the knowledge that their identification will not be accepted in certain instances.

The privacy concern stems from the requirement for states to retain source documents when processing licenses, something Missouri doesn’t currently do. When asked in the hearing whether Missouri will retain documents for both license options, Rowden and Silvey said the plan was to retain documents only for the federally approved licenses. The Department of Homeland Security’s website states that Real ID isn’t creating a federal database, and that each state remains in control of the licensing process.

The option to opt-out "is a solution to a problem, and one that isn't going to get any better," Rowden said.

Privacy concerns contributed to a 2009 vote by the General Assembly forbidding state officials to take any steps in accordance with the federal Real ID law, according to previous Missourian reporting. Rowden and Silvey's proposals would replace that statute.

The bills estimate that the transition will cost the state about $1 million during the first two fiscal years. Silvey said he doesn’t anticipate an increase to the cost of purchasing a license.

Other states that have passed legislation working toward meeting Real ID requirements have been granted extensions until Oct. 1, 2020 by the Department of Homeland Security. If the department sees Missouri working toward compliant legislation, Silvey said Missouri could be granted an extension as well.

Representatives from the Kansas City and St. Louis airports voiced their support for passing the bills during the hearing. Both cited recent growth in their airports and expressed concern at the potential for regression if Missouri doesn’t move toward compliance and driver's licenses are no longer accepted by TSA.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

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