- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Driver's licenses could contain personal information of motorists, such as fingerprints or retinal scans, under a proposal submitted yesterday by the state's motor vehicle administrator.
Licenses are "the de facto national ID card," Motor Vehicle Administrator Anne Ferro said. "This would reduce fraud and ensure the integrity of licenses after they are issued."
News that some of the terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks had obtained driver's licenses fraudulently in Virginia focused attention on the need to tighten the licensing system.
The Anti-Terrorism Workgroup established by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and legislative leaders has included driver's licenses among the issues it is considering as it prepares legislation for the 2002 General Assembly session, which convenes in January.
Mrs. Ferro said biometric technology exists to include a bar code on licenses that could identify drivers by fingerprint, scans of the iris or retina, facial characteristics and signatures.
"Maryland doesn't have any authority that would allow us to use biometrics. We should have it," she said.
State law now requires that licenses issued to drivers who are not U.S. citizens cover the same five-year period as regular driver's licenses.
The Motor Vehicle Administration proposes that licenses of noncitizens expire when their visas or passports expire, if that is less than five years.
New Jersey has such a limit, and California and Florida are issuing 30-day licenses while their agencies confirm with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that a person is in the country legally, Mrs. Ferro said.
The work group also heard testimony on changes needed in state law to protect Marylanders called to active duty in the state National Guard.
Brig. Gen. Warner Sumpter, assistant adjutant general for state operations, told the work group that the National Guard's main goal was to provide equal treatment for all soldiers called to active duty, regardless of circumstances.
Troops can be called to duty by the president or by the governor for state purposes. Federal law provides more protection against financial losses for Guard members summoned to active duty by the president.
Gen. Sumpter said the state law, like federal law, should guarantee that Guard members could return to their old jobs with the same rate of pay and benefits and seniority as if they had not been away.
Maryland also should provide $100,000 in life insurance to Guard members killed while on duty as it does for police officers and firefighters who are killed while performing services for the state, he said.
Gen. Sumpter said members called to active duty often lose substantial portions of their income. The average National Guard member on duty at Baltimore-Washington International Airport is paid at an annual rate of about $24,000 in salary and daily allowances.
The state needs to do whatever it can to reduce the disruption to Guard members and their families, Gen. Sumpter said.
"The more normal you keep it for the family, the better off you are," he said.

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