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New Requirements Make it Difficult for Senior Citizens to Obtain License

November 01, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

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JEFFERSON CITY - A 72 year old Missouri man is worried a new state law will make it illegal for him to drive. John Kelly's driver's license is up for renewal in January, but because he lacks a birth certificate he may not be eligible for a new one.

"I would have no personal freedom outside of being able to amble around the house somewhat," Kelly said.

In 2004 the state passed a law increasing requirements to obtain and renew drivers' licenses in an effort to curb identity theft and to comply with a new federal law. People must show proof of identity and residence along with proof of lawful presence in the state, which usually involves showing a birth certificate or passport. The Department of Health and Senior Services say some senior citizens are less likely to have a birth certificate because more of them were born at home than today and the certificate was never filed.

Kelly has gathered documents to show he has lived in Missouri for more than 65 years, but those documents will not meet the new requirements.

"It's a hassle, and not only that it does cost a few bucks here and there to get these records and all for the simple order of renewing your driver's license," Kelly said. "I don't think it's a fair setup, I am not seeking any more that a drivers license."

Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, said he thinks the new law places an unfair burden on senior citizens.

"I think the requirements need to have an exemption or waiver for these people born before 1930 that have a difficult time producing a birth certificate," Green said.

Maura Browning, public information officer for the Department of Revenue, said creating a waiver for senior citizens would violate the law. "The law requires that we require proof of lawful presence, to simply give a waiver to people born before a certain date is not part of our edict, which is to follow the law."

However, the Department of Revenue has created some special considerations for applicants born before 1930. Senior citizens without a birth certificate can provide a certified "No Record Statement" from the Department of Health and Senior Services to verify there is no birth certificate on record. The applicant must also then show other supporting documents like military or insurance records.

Kelly said he has been communicating with the Department of Revenue since August but no one told him about the other provision.

Green said he will consider introducing a bill to deal with the drivers' license requirements next legislative session.

"I don't think when they passed this they knew that this dilemma would come up, but it has and I want us to act upon it," Green said.

Browning said the department hasn't received a lot of complaints about the new rules.

"We are working on a one and one basis, no matter what their age, but especially with senior citizens," Browning said.

The new "show me proof" requirements went into effect on July 1. Several documents satisfy the proof of lawful presence requirement including birth certificates, passports, a Certificate of Citizenship, Naturalization, or Birth Abroad.

The bill also prohibits a drivers' license to be issued for longer than a driver is lawfully present in the U.S.