As Missouri's REAL ID exemption expires, state officials are still waiting for the federal government to accept an 18-month plan to comply with anti-terrorism identification standards already adopted by most of the rest of the country.
Missouri has been among a handful of holdouts to the REAL ID Act of 2005, which Congress passed in the wake of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The federal law sets standards for how states should issue forms of photographic identification.
After a protracted privacy debate, state lawmakers passed a bill creating an optional REAL ID license, which Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law in June. About a month later, the Department of Homeland Security gave Missouri an extension until Oct. 10.
As of Tuesday, Missouri's extension is over, but "residents can expect no function or operational changes at this time due to the implementation of a grace period" by the Department of Homeland Security, a DHS spokeswoman said.
The deadline of Jan. 22 — when air travel enforcement begins — continues to loom. After that date, without additional federal courtesy, Missourians will need to bring additional identification beyond a driver's license in order to fly on domestic airplanes.
"Extensions ultimately ensure that DHS is working with states throughout the process and that residents are not unduly inconvenienced as their states take their necessary steps towards full compliance," spokeswoman Anna Franko said in a statement. "The maximum an extension may be issued is 12 months, allowing DHS to continue to assess progress towards coming into full compliance."
Greitens, in a Sept. 21 letter to the homeland security department, asked for a little more than 12 months. The governor's letter outlines a plan "demonstrating Missouri's commitment to and progress toward full compliance" by March 4, 2019.
Missouri's Department of Revenue, which includes the Division of Motor Vehicles, is working toward implementing rules such as retaining copies of source documentation like birth certificates to prevent fraud. Before applying for REAL ID certification, DOR needs to update its computer systems, formally establish policies for the optional program and train its employees and contractors.
Greitens' letter breaks Misssouri's REAL ID compliance plan into two phases.
The first phase, with a target date of June 25, involves updating and reviewing card design for security as well as beginning to mark certain documents to comply with federal regulations.
The second phase, set for March 4, 2019, involves heavier lifting:
- Change Missouri's license issuance system to include the REAL ID Act's document scanning and retention requirements
- Start document marking for REAL ID compliance
- Conduct fingerprint background checks on staffers
- Finalize and submit plans to DHS
"Additionally, I am directing the DOR to participate in quarterly progress reviews with DHS during the extension period and to provide additional information necessary to show progress towards the milestones and implementation activity described above," Greitens wrote to Elaine C. Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Franko, the DHS spokeswoman, did not comment on Missouri's additional steps toward REAL ID compliance and did not say whether Missouri would be issued an exemption prior to the Jan. 22 air travel deadline.
"DHS does not comment on internal, pre-decisional deliberations," Franko said. "Communications between the state and the department on compliance status and steps toward compliance are privileged and owned by the state."
Greitens' press secretary did not respond to requests for comment Monday.