Monday, January 29, 2007
Maine overwhelmingly rejected federal requirements for nationalidentification cards on Thursday, marking the first formal state opposition tocontroversial legislation scheduled to go in effect for Americans next year.Both chambers of the Maine legislature approved a resolution saying the stateflatly "refuses" to force its citizens to use driver's licenses that complywith digital ID standards, which were established under the 2005 RealID Act. It asks the U.S. Congress to repeal the law.The vote represents a political setback for the U.S. Department of HomelandSecurity and Republicans in Washington, D.C., which have argued thatnationalized ID cards for all Americans would help in the fight againstterrorists."I have faith that the Democrats in Congress will hear this from many statesand will find a way to repeal or amend this in the coming months," HouseMajority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview afterthevote. "It's not only a huge federal mandate, but it's a huge mandate from thefederal government asking us to do something we don't have any interest indoing."The Real ID Act says that, starting around May 2008, Americans will need afederally approved ID card--a U.S. passport will also qualify--to travel on anairplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments or takeadvantage of nearly any government service. States will have to conduct checksoftheir citizens' identification papers, and driver's licenses likely will bereissued to comply with Homeland Security requirements.In addition, the national ID cards must be "machine-readable," with detailsleft up to Homeland Security, which hasn't yet released final regulations. Thatcould end up being a magnetic strip, an enhanced bar code or radio frequencyidentification (RFID) chips.The votes in Maine on the resolution were nonpartisan. It was approved by a34-to-0 vote in the state Senate and by a 137-to-4 vote in the House ofRepresentatives.Other states are debating similar measures. Bills pending in Georgia,Massachusetts, Montana and Washington state express varying degrees ofopposition tothe Real ID Act.Montana's is one of the strongest. The legislature held a hearing onWednesday on a bill that says "The state of Montana will not participate in theimplementation of the Real ID Act of 2005" and directs the state motor vehicledepartment "not to implement the provisions."Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, saidhe thinks Maine's vote will "break the logjam, and other states are going tofollow." (The American Civil Liberties Union has set up an anti-Real ID Website called Real Nightmare).Pingree, Maine's House majority leader, said the
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.01268:">Real ID Act(LOC version) wouldhave cost the state $185 million over five years and required every stateresident to visit the motor vehicle agency so that several forms ofidentification--including an original copy of the birth certificate and a SocialSecuritycard--would be uploaded into a federal database.Growing opposition to the law in the states could create a political picklefor the Bush administration. The White House has enthusiastically embraced theReal ID Act, saying it ("facilitates the strengthening by thestates of the standards for the security and integrity of drivers' licenses."But if a sufficient number of states follow Maine's lead, pressure wouldincrease on a Democratic Congress to relax the Real ID rules--or even rescindthementirely.A key Republican supporter of the Real ID Act said Thursday that the law wasjust as necessary now as when it was enacted as part of an $82 billionmilitary spending and tsunami relief bill. (Its backers say it follows therecommendations that the 9/11 Commission made in 2004.)"Real ID is needed to protect the American people from terrorists who usedrivers licenses to board planes, get jobs and move around the country as the9/11 terrorists did," Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the HouseJudiciary Committee, said in an e-mailed statement. "It makes sense to havedrivers licenses that ensure a person is who they say they are. It makes thecountry safer and protects the American people from terrorists who would use themost common form of ID as cover."Copyright ©1995-2007 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.