- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

A state effort to block the federalization of driver’s licenses has won support from a key Senate Republican who is pushing legislation to delay implementation of the REAL ID law.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, says she was persuaded to push for postponement after a meeting Friday with Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

The Maine Legislature was the first in the nation to pass a resolution last month opposing congressionally mandated identification requirements recommended by the 9/11 commission that will take effect in 2008.

Other states including Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming are also drafting or have already approved legislation opposing the new requirements that states meet certain security standards before citizens can use a driver’s license for federal purposes, such as airport screening or opening a bank account.

Miss Collins acknowledges “the system for issuing identification cards is flawed” and needs to be revamped, but says that “the costs of complying with REAL ID are enormous and overly burdensome to states, including Maine.”

“I will be introducing this legislation so that we can pause and take a more measured approach to REAL ID,” said Miss Collins, who said she would file the bill today.

The original legislation did not include states and other interested parties in the rulemaking process. It instead instructed the Department of Homeland Security “to simply write its own regulations,” Miss Collins said.

“Nearly two years later, we still have not seen these regulations, in spite of a looming May 2008 deadline for states to be in compliance with the Real ID Act,” Miss Collins said. “As states begin work this year on their 2008 budgets, they still have no idea what the regulations will require of them.”

Bill Wyatt, spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that “with no regulations, we have no idea yet what it is we need to comply with. Our cost estimate, based on what DHS has been talking about doing, is going to be $11 billion in the first five years.”

The REAL ID language was tucked inside the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief and approved by Congress in May 2005.

In addition to standard information already required on a driver’s license, REAL ID requires states to use security features that can be verified by a machine to prevent counterfeiting. Localities must also keep paper records for at least 10 years.

States will not be allowed to accept any foreign document other than an official passport when foreign visitors apply for a driver’s license.

Miss Collins’ bill says states will not have to be compliant with the law until two years after the final regulations are issued, so that “no matter how long it takes the Department of Homeland Security to finish the regulations, states will have a full two years to implement the program. Most likely that will mean an extension from 2008 to 2010,” Miss Collins said.

The bill also creates a panel of federal and state officials along with privacy advocates to suggest modifications to the law.

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