Senator Mike Cunningham

As regular readers of this report may recall, I’ve followed the controversy surrounding the federal REAL ID Act closely. Along with many other Missourians, I have worried that this law, passed in 2005, represented an overreach by the federal government and threatened to breach the wall of privacy that we once took for granted.

The law establishes minimum standards for state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses and requires states to maintain a database of required information, including Social Security numbers. This information would be accessible by federal authorities. Furthermore, the act requires that digital photographs included on the REAL ID be readable by facial recognition software. These and other concerns were sufficient for Missourians to adopt a “Show Me” attitude about the law.

The Missouri Department of Revenue will begin issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses on March 25. There’s no reason to rush out and replace your ID, though. Your current Missouri ID or driver’s license will remain valid until it expires. When it’s time to renew, you’ll have the option of requesting a REAL ID or a non-compliant license or ID card.

You do not need a REAL ID to drive, vote, cash a check, buy a gun, rent a boat or prove your age. In fact, if you don’t plan on flying, visiting military bases or touring nuclear power plants, you may never have to get a REAL ID.

You may not actually need a REAL ID for those activities, either. After Oct. 1, 2020, you will still be able to pass through federal security check points with your non-compliant Missouri driver’s license if you also have another form of identification that complies with the REAL ID law. Alternative documents include a U.S. passport or passport card, a U.S. military ID and several other forms of identification.

If you decide to obtain a REAL ID, you’ll need to verify your Social Security number and provide documents that prove your identity, your lawful status in the United States and your Missouri residency. For most people, a birth certificate or passport will satisfy both the identity and lawful status requirements. A voter registration card, utility bill, tax receipt or any number of other common documents will establish Missouri residency.

In Missouri, REAL ID cards will have a gold star in the upper right hand corner. Non-compliant cards will read “Not for REAL ID purposes.” Missourians who choose to replace their current, unexpired ID with a REAL ID card can apply for an early duplicate license. Missouri law allows for a one-time waiver of the duplicate license fee. You’ll still pay license office processing fees, however.

Many of us do not like REAL ID but, I suspect, most Missourians will eventually fall in line. If you are uncomfortable with the REAL ID, you don’t have to get one. They will only be required in certain circumstances, and there are other ways to meet the requirements. For more information about REAL ID in Missouri, visit the Department of Revenue’s website at https://dor.mo.gov/drivers/real-id-information.

While we’re discussing the Department of Revenue, I should also mention that the department has an online system for tracking individual tax returns. The Missouri Return Inquiry System allows tax filers to access information regarding the status of their return and see when their refund will be processed. Users must provide their Social Security number, filing status and the amount of their anticipated refund or balance due.

To sign up for notifications, log onto https://dor.mo.gov/returnstatus. Taxpayers may also obtain information about their Missouri tax return by calling the Department of Revenue at 573-522-0967.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.