- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s debate about the federal REAL ID security law appears to be over.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a new law Tuesday that will let Louisiana’s drivers decide whether they want a license that complies with the federal law or one that does not. His action gets rid of a state ban on compliance that lawmakers enacted in 2008 and ends years of legislative haggling over the issue.

Karen St. Germain, commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles, hopes to have REAL ID licenses ready to go by Sept. 1.

“We want to do it as early as possible,” St. Germain said. But she added: “This has been a long time coming, and I want to make sure that we don’t have any hitches.”

Bill supporters pushed the measure because of worries Louisiana residents will run into trouble boarding domestic flights in a few years and entering federal buildings without a REAL ID-compliant license. But conservative groups had raised privacy worries about the data collection required for compliance.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act to create national identification standards after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Twenty-three states meet the current requirements, and most others, including Louisiana, have received temporary extensions, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Louisiana’s new law - sponsored by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, and Rep. Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans - offers a choice to the state’s drivers.

The Office of Motor Vehicles says to comply with the federal law, Louisiana needs to scan into a database and store the birth certificates, passports or other documents used to verify a person’s identity. When drivers opt out of a REAL ID-compliant license, the agency will be barred from copying or scanning into a database any of those documents.

The same provisions will apply to state-issued identification cards, letting people pick between the two varieties.

Former Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed a similar bill in 2014.

The new law prohibits the motor vehicles agency from sharing any facial biometric data that might be obtained for a driver’s license with other states or government agencies without a warrant or court order.

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Senate Bill 227 and House Bill 702: www.legis.la.gov


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