Legislators call for repeal of Real ID Act
By Dec. 31, 2009, every state is supposed to be in initial compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005. It was passed as a reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to establish national standards for driver’s licenses. However, many state and local officials have complained that Real ID is a costly, unfunded mandate that violates residents’ privacy and infringes on states’ powers. Now, Maine has passed legislation calling for Congress to repeal the act, and several more states have proposed similar resolutions. On March 1, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff offered a state-by-state extension of the original deadline for initial compliance, May 11, 2008, but also said the act would go forward with full compliance in five years.
Based on a 9/11 Commission recommendation, the Real ID Act requires all driver’s license applicants to present photo identification, a birth certificate or similar proof of a birth date, a Social Security card and proof of their address. It also requires states to confirm the applicants’ information, maintain a database for the information and share that database with other states.
According to a study by the Washington-based National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, states will have to spend $11 billion to implement the procedures over five years. At the moment, according to NCSL, Congress has appropriated $40 million to assist with the implementation.
Maine legislators passed a resolution in January opposing compliance with Real ID, primarily because information for all U.S. citizens would be in a single database, says state Sen. Elizabeth Mitchell. Mitchell says that is too intrusive on residents’ privacy. “I think it should be repealed, and then we go back to the drawing board,” she says.
Driver’s licenses from states that do not comply with the act cannot be used as identification for federal purposes, such as entering a federal building or boarding an airplane. “We said we’re going to take that chance because we believe [Congress will] come to [its] senses and repeal it,” Mitchell says. As 19 other states have begun considering similar resolutions, Mitchell says, the Real ID opponents’ position is strengthened.
However, several states are planning to comply with the act. California State Sen. Gilbert Cedillo expects a bill he sponsored, which will mandate the state’s compliance with Real ID, to be signed into law soon by Gov. Schwarzenegger. “[Real ID] was voted on by every U.S. senator, 363 members of Congress, and the president signed the bill,” he says. “It reflects a consensus of our national leadership on national security.”
Part of California Senate Bill 60 would allow immigrants seeking residency or citizenship to obtain licenses. “Included in [the Real ID Act is a provision] that said in those instances where your citizens cannot prove their citizenship … you can still issue them a driver’s license, but it can only be for driving, and not for the purposes of identification,” Cedillo says.
On March 1, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a preliminary version of regulations to implement the act. The regulations will be available on the Federal Register Web site, www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html, during a 60-day public comment period, and will be finalized after that review.
In announcing the regulations and the extension of the deadline, Chertoff also said that the DHS would allow up to 20 percent of a state’s Homeland Security Grant Program funds to be applied to Real ID costs. NCSL and NGA issued a joint statement calling for further reforms to the act and for more federal funding. “While NGA and NCSL appreciate the initial compliance extension called for by members of Congress, these regulations do nothing to address the unreasonable five year full compliance deadline or offset the large cost to states,” the statement says.
Name: Real ID Act
Number: H.R. 1268
DOB: May 11, 2005
Compliance deadline: Dec. 31, 2009
Estimated implementation cost: $11 billion
Federal implementation appropriation: $40 million
Considering legislation to oppose: Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming