A battle over whether to allow Missouri residents to get federally acceptable driver's licenses came closer to an end Thursday.
The Missouri House voted 99-40 to allow the state to issue Real ID compliant licenses despite protests from some Republicans who say the state is "bowing" to federal government overreach and putting citizens' privacy at risk. The proposal now moves to the Senate, where leadership said they will tackle the issue this session.
Missouri is one of only five states that doesn't comply or have an extension to comply with the federal law establishing tougher licensing requirements in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Current state law doesn't allow the state to issue 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.
But a fast-approaching deadline affecting air travel makes the situation more important.
Starting in January 2018, Missouri residents won't be able to board an airplane with a state license without extra documents or a passport. They currently need a passport or documents such as a birth certificate or social security card along with their driver's license to enter military bases and some federal facilities.
Rep. Steve Lynch, whose district encompasses part of the military base Ft. Leonard Wood, said the state's inaction has caused problems in that area.
"Everywhere I go, every weekend, I run across people that stop me and tell me 'We need to fix this issue,'" he said. "People are angry. They are frustrated. Many people still visit Ft. Leonard Wood, but all of them are concerned that they may lose access to air travel next year."
The bill would give people the option of whether to receive a compliant license or one without the extra security precautions, but a core group of Republicans say it's a "false choice."
GOP Rep. Rick Brattin said that because people don't have the ability to board a plane or enter a federal facility without a Real ID, the federal government is forcing states to comply with the law. And although people can apply for a noncompliant license, they give up certain freedoms such as flying on an airplane or entering a military base, he said.
Some lawmakers raised privacy concerns about the creation of a new database, saying it could be hacked. Others questioned the motives of the federal government.
"I do not think that this sort of information in the hands of the government will ever be used for good," Brattin said.
Other Republicans are holding out hope that President Donald Trump might repeal the requirements or otherwise exempt Missouri.
Gov. Eric Greitens told reporters Tuesday that he spoke with people in the Trump administration about the rule during recent a trip to Washington D.C.
"They actually may be considering a change," he said. "... but it's very important to me that every person in the state of Missouri has the option of having an id that will allow them to fly."