Filed Under:  Local, News

La. is not in compliance with feds on driver’s licenses

28th January 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Collin Breaux
Contributing Writer

The Real ID Act, passed by the federal government during the Bush administration back in 2005, came into effect January 15. It was spurred by concerns of terrorist attacks in the wake of September 11.

Louisiana was one state to initially resist it, with legislation drafted by State Representative Brett Geymann to opposite it on the grounds of privacy issues. A press release from the Department of Homeland Security in Decem­ber, however, said a temporary deferment for any state not in compliance is for an indefinite period of time, expected to last approximately six months. Regular licenses and identification cards will still be allowed for boarding aircraft or entering government buildings. If a state does not ask for an extension, they will be required to get passports. According to The Advertiser, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican from Lafayette, had requested an extension for the deadline. (Boustany did not respond to an interview request at the time of this article.)

The law requires a scannable digital photo that would be registered to a national database. This electronic database would link all state information to each other. It also grants states the right to refuse an ID if there is no confirmation the individual has terminated another state’s ID. While some have applauded the law, not all are in favor of it, citing concerns of privacy and individual rights. Under House Bill 180, drafted in 2008, Geymann was able to direct the state Public Safety and Corrections board to ignore it. “That’s where we’re headed with this, is a national ID card. That’s our fear,” Geymann testified. Finding the original act “intrusive”, he says the information was not encrypted from identity theft and also states there were talks of “retina scans”. He also states Louisiana has already opted out of the law and he has no further plans to fight the law himself, saying there are no penalties if the state chooses not to comply. President Obama’s selection of Janet Napolitano to oversee the Department of Homeland Security leaves the future of the law in limbo, as Napolitano has been a critic of the program in the past. While governor of Arizona, in June Napolitano implemented a law similar to Louisiana that prohibited her state from complying, claiming excessive costs. Obama has neither made a public comment on the issue as President or voted on the law when he was a Senator.

As outlined on the National Conference of State Legislature website, “A federal agency may not accept a driver’s license or personal identification card (DL/ID) after May 11, 2008, unless the state has been certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Secu­rity.” Earlier in December New Mexico was one of the states that did not comply, with U.S. Senator Tom Udall asking for clarification from the government about the disagreement. “The lack of guidance by the Department of Homeland Security is causing a great deal of anxiety for our constituents, who are seeing news reports that they may need a passport in order to fly on domestic flights after January 15,” Udall says in a letter co-written with Senator Jeff Bingaman to Napolitano. In 2009, South Carolina, and Arizona had passed statutes prohibiting the implementation of the Real ID Act, according to the ACLU. A 2007 resolution by the state of Utah was against implementation as well citing the sovereignty of state rights. By December of 2012 seven states did not comply, mostly on the grounds of federal intrusion and constitutionality. The U.S. government urges compliance from the states regarding meeting their expectations with the law. Colorado and Georgia were among the states approved for the Real ID law, with 13 states in total granted compliance approval.

Stephen Campbell, the DMV Commissioner, states, “Congress represents the people.” He says that this is a decree from the federal government and we will eventually be forced to follow it, regardless of the sentiment about it. He points out how there is legislation that one must be 21 years old to drink alcohol and this law is really no different, adding that the state is in compliance. Back in October he also mentioned the “multi-million dollar change” this would be and that the full revamp wouldn’t go into effect until October 2013. Dailyworld.com reported back in December Campbell sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, noting the state planned to comply with 38 of the law’s 39 provisions over a six- to eight-month period. The DHS wants to usher in “phased-in enforcement” around this time, though “this will not result in immediate enforcement.” A study done by the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and American Asso­ciation of Motor Vehicle Administrators estimated the cost could be over $11 billion for states over a five-year period.

This article was originally published in the January 28, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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