Jan 21, 2008

New Missouri bill thumbs its nose at federal Real ID Act

By Lee Logan

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri would defy federal drivers licensing requirements in the name of privacy under a bill filed by a crusading legislator Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Guest, the bill would prohibit Missouri from complying with the Real ID Act of 2005.

Responding to security concerns after Sept. 11, Congress passed the program, which sets common licensing rules that essentially make it harder to falsely obtain a drivers license.

Since then, Guest, a Republican from King City in northwest Missouri, has been rounding up other states to oppose the law based on privacy concerns.

"We have a federal government that is out of control," Guest said.

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking the federal government to repeal the program last year; Guest's bill would go a step further by prohibiting the state from participating in the program entirely.

Guest said he has no problem with a common set of standards for drivers licenses, but he's worried about the provisions that require "machine-readable" technology in the cards, which could leave personal information in the wrong hands.

"It will make ID theft very easy in the future," he said.

Because Real ID would be required for so many common tasks, Guest said it amounts to a national identification card.

"Almost everybody would be affected by it," he said. "It is the first step to Big Brother watching you."

Nationally, the movement against Real ID has sparked wide-ranging fears that the next step might be microchipping citizens, or that the cards have a connection to the biblical prophesy of the "mark of the beast."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the program provides a much-needed security boost, and that the department has worked with states on implementation.

"There's been a public outcry for more secure identification," department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

If a state decides not to comply, its citizens would be unable to use their drivers license to fly on airplanes and would need additional documentation, such as a passport.

The rules are set to take effect in May, though states have until December 2009 to fully implement the program.

The Missouri Department of Revenue would have to implement the licensing rules, which were released to states last week.

Spokesman David Griffith said the department is still reviewing the rules to determine the impact on Missouri. One of the key questions, he said, is calculating the program's cost for the state.

The Homeland Security department has estimated that the program will cost at least $3.9 billion nationwide.

More than 20 states have passed legislation or resolutions opposing the program, including several that have passed laws saying they will not participate — essentially calling the feds' bluff.

Despite the outcry, a few state legislators think Real ID isn't such a big deal.

Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-Florissant, was one of three lonely legislators to vote against the resolution last year.

"I just don't like the idea of thumbing your nose at a pretty modest security recommendation," he said, noting that the program was suggested by the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission.

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