JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Dec. 22, 2016) – Two bills prefiled for the 2017 legislative session would repeal a Missouri law prohibiting implementation of the Real ID Act and set the state on a course to participate in an unconstitutional national identification system.

Rep. Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City) prefiled House Bill 151 (HB151) on Dec. 6. Sen. Ryan Silvery (R-Kansas City) introduced a similar bill (SB37) in the Senate. The legislation would repeal current state law prohibiting “compliance with the goals or standards of the federal REAL ID,” and replace it with a program to issue REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses to those who want them. Under the proposed laws, Missourians would be allowed to opt out of the federally compliant ID.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 and Pres. G.W. Bush signed it into law. The act essentially mandates a national ID system that relies on states to implement.

Under the act, all 50 states were supposed to comply with the federal law by 2008. But, states rebelled against REAL ID for several reasons, including privacy concerns and the fact that Congress didn’t provide any funding for the mandates it imposes on states. To date, 27 states, including Missouri, remain non-compliant, nullifying the national ID system in effect.

In 2009, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a measure prohibiting any state cooperation with implementation of REAL ID.

Over the last year, the federal government has ramped up bullying tactics in an effort to force reticent states into compliance. On Oct. 13, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent letters to five states, denying their request for a time extensions to bring their driver’s licenses in compliance with REAL ID. Three other states, including Missouri, were already under the DHS gun. If the feds follow through on their threats, this means that in 2018, residents of Missouri may find themselves on a virtual no-fly list. They will need to have alternate ID, such as a passport, in order to clear TSA screening.

If HB151 or SB37 passes, it will set Missouri on the path toward compliance with REAL ID.

But if history provides any indication, the feds will not follow through on their threats to punish non-compliant states. The federal government has played this game of brinkmanship for years, ultimately backing down and extending deadlines. It seems highly unlikely the feds will be willing to weather the political fallout the will result from keeping millions of Americans off commercial aircraft.

The Missouri legislature should refuse to back down, and it should emphatically reject HB151 and SB37.

REAL ID creates huge administrative burdens for state governments, while providing only minimal federal funds for implementing its onerous requirements. At the same time, it does nothing to combat terrorism and puts Americans at greater risk for invasions of privacy and identity theft. REAL ID represents not just an unfunded mandate, but an unconstitutional expansion of federal power over something reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment.

Mike Maharrey

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