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New deadline for Missouri, Illinois driver's licenses to meet federal security requirements

12.12 Law enforcement officers were present outside the Thomas F. Eagleton US Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:28 p.m. Jan. 8 with announcement from Homeland Security- The regulatory clock is now ticking loudly for state lawmakers in Jefferson City, Mo., and Springfield, Ill., to ensure that residents of both states can use their state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards as proper forms of identification to board commercial airliners.

Friday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, announced that beginning in January 2018, the Transportation Security Administration will begin enforcing the act for travelers - meaning that Missouri and Illinois residents will either need to have documents that meet federal standards or bring some other acceptable form of identification, such as a passport, with them.

The announcement comes just days before licenses and ID cards from the two states will no longer work as acceptable forms of identification to access most federal facilities.

On Sunday, individuals from Missouri and Illinois may need to bring additional forms of identification, or undergo other procedures, depending on the facility they hope to enter.

Area military bases already have additional procedures in place to conduct background screenings before admitting visitors.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's office says that for now, residents may continue to use their driver's licenses to enter federal courthouses, and when they seek assistance with Social Security and veterans issues. That too will likely change in the years ahead as DHS engages in a public education campaign on acceptable forms of identification. Only a handful of states are the same position as Missouri and Illinois.

On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, expressed hopes that state lawmakers would work to address the issue should federal officials decide to drop what he called the "second hammer" of tightening restrictions for air travelers.

Original article - Beginning Sunday, Missourians and Illinoisans will no longer be able to use their state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards as acceptable forms of identification to enter most federal facilities, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

But the clock has not yet started on limiting their use to board commercial airplanes.

Federal officials are increasing pressure on several states to bring their driver’s license programs into compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005. The states that are out of compliance include Missouri and Illinois.

The act was passed, in part, because the hijackers involved in the 2001, terror attacks had acquired numerous driver’s licenses in the U.S. The stone-faced photo of mastermind Mohamed Atta, released by authorities shortly after the attacks, reportedly came from his Florida driver’s license.

While it might seem like a contradiction, considering the impetus for the law, the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept all state-issued driver’s licenses, including those from Missouri and Illinois, to board commercial airliners. However, Homeland Security officials are “in the process of scheduling plans for REAL ID enforcement at airports,” according to DHS spokeswoman Amanda DeGroff.

In an emailed statement to St. Louis Public Radio, DeGroff said, “The traveling public will have ample notice, at least 120 days, before any changes are made that might affect their travel.”

Still, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, says he’s hopeful that lawmakers in Jefferson City will “have a reasonable discussion” about changing the state’s law during this legislative session. He says he doesn’t want to see federal officials drop “the second hammer” and keep Missourians from getting on to airplanes. “In order to prevent that, we’re going to need to change the law.”

Nixon told reporters Wednesday, during a news conference in St. Louis, that he agrees with comments by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that while there is a need to manage privacy issues, public safety is also important. Blunt is one of the original co-sponsors of the act.

On Thursday, Blunt told reporters in Jefferson City, that he has spoken with several state lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, about the act’s requirements. Kinder had previously issued a sharply worded statement calling the act, an “intrusive and misguided federal law.”

Blunt says, he’s “trying to find any obstacle we can help with that Homeland Security might have created,” but he says “this is the law” and the general assembly will have to think about that.”

According to the senator, states have to be in compliance by 2020. For now he says residents of the two states may have a little bit more difficulty gaining access to federal facilities with their state-issued driver’s licenses. He added that anyone seeking help with Social Security or veterans’ issues will still have easy access.  Blunt's spokesman, Brian Hart, says DHS has confirmed that individuals will still be able to access federal courthouses with their state-issued driver's license.    

Jefferson City v. Washington, D.C.

Last October, Missouri Revenue Director Nia Ray, sent a letter to Homeland Security officials explaining that, under state law, Missouri is “prohibited” from complying with the act. She also said in her letter that the state officials “remain convinced that the Missouri driver license and non-driver ID are very secure identification documents when issued according to Missouri law.” (see graphic below)

Nonetheless, Homeland Security officials responded last month identifying several areas where the state is not in compliance with the federal act.  

Those include:

  • Not marking Missouri driver’s licenses and ID cards with a DHS-approved security marking
  • Not clearly indicating when licenses are Temporary or limited-term on their face
  • Not re-verifying an applicant’s Social Security number and lawful status along with other information not available at previous issuances or renewals 

Illinois officials are also reviewing their program.  By one estimate, the costs to fully comply with federal requirements could run close to $60 million and includes redesigning driver's license facilities across the state, along with numerous computer system upgrades, according to Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker.
Other areas where Homeland Security officials say Illinois is out of compliance include:

  • Failing to establish an individual’s “legal presence” with documents other than Social Security cards
  • Barring individuals from carrying both a driver’s license and a state-issued identification card (Illinois allows individuals to carry both, which is prohibited under the federal act)
  • Limiting the validity of identification cards to no more than eight years. (Illinois issues non-expiring identification cards to individuals over 65 years of age, and cards valid for 10 years for persons with disabilities - both are prohibited under the federal law.) 

Lawmakers in Springfield have also balked at the federal requirements and previously blocked an appropriations measure that would have helped the state come into compliance.
As for security features, here is how Missouri describes its license:

Credit Missouri Department of Revenue