JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House managed to finally pass the highly-contested REAL ID bill Thursday afternoon.
The issue of REAL ID has been a hotly-debated one in the General Assembly. The true battle has not been between Democrats and Republicans; rather, Rpublicans have fought amongst themselves.
Both the arguments for and against the bill arguably fall under the scope of the conservative values. REAL ID was first established in 2005 as a solution to terrorist threats and improving security following 9/11, which Republicans have often prioritized. But many consider REAL ID to be a privacy concern and federal government overreach, two tenets that conservatives have long championed.
While lawmakers all struggle on the issue of REAL ID, the real problem is the ticking clock. Missouri has until January 2018 to get into compliance with the federal law. If it does not, then Missourians will need a passport to fly commercially or enter military bases and federal buildings. Rep. Kevin Corlew’s HB 151 would allow Missouri citizens to choose whether they want a compliant license or not.
Opponents of the bill argue that becoming compliant would violate Missourians’ right to privacy, as it calls for the retention and storage of sensitive documents, like a birth certificate or Social Security card. Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, argued on the floor Thursday that the option would create “second-class citizens”.
Other opponents argued that even if Missourians are given an option, it will only be a matter of time before it became required.
“I should be for this bill,” Hill said. “We just required the same thing for Voter ID. How long before we require that to vote? A bill has already been filed to require a REAL ID to vote. It’s easier to get a passport right now.”
Hill also questioned how long it would be until REAL ID would be required for jobs.
Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, brought up his concerns over the fiscal note, citing an estimated price tag of $7.5 million.
“Not every Missourian will need a passport,” Moon said. “But with REAL ID, they’re going to pay for it, even though they’re not going to use it… We should be dictating to the federal government what they should be doing, not the other way around.”
Corlew later addressed Moon’s claim, saying it was a positive fiscal note, as the costs for the IDs would increase incoming revenue.
After nearly two hours of debate, the House finally took up the bill for the third vote, passing the bill with a final vote of 99-40, but the members quickly voted down the emergency clause with a tally of 19-125.
“It’s a difficult issue. It’s been a controversial issue within our caucus, and I think it’s because all of us are interested in protecting the privacy of Missourians,” Speaker Todd Richardson said. “If I had my druthers, the federal government would have given us some relief from this, but they haven’t, so this is our attempt to deal with the very practical concerns that a lot of our constituents had. We’ll see what happens as it moves to the other side of the building.”
While the House has finally signed off on it, all eyes watching this issue still remain on the Senate.
In a press availability on Thursday afternoon, Sen. Mike Kehoe said that Sen. Ryan Silvey, the sponsor of the Senate’s version of REAL ID, and Sen. Will Kraus, a vocal opponent of the legislation, have been working on some ideas.
That legislation is currently on the informal calendar, as the senators had agreed to allow time for the possibility of action from the federal government.
In the end, it all comes down to what the Senate will do.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.