Congress passed the Real ID law last year, intending to make it tougher for terrorists to obtain driver’s licenses and for people without proper identification to board planes or enter federal buildings, says the New York Times. With the deadline for compliance two years away, states are frustrated. They say the law – which requires states to use sources like birth certificates and national immigration databases to verify that people applying for or renewing driver’s licenses are American citizens or legal residents – will be too expensive and difficult to put in place by the May 2008 deadline. Another issue is the privacy impact of the requirement that states share, through databases, the personal information needed for a driver’s license.
The National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators issued a report saying that the states have not been given the time or money to comply with the law and that they need at least another eight years. “It’s absolutely absurd,” said Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, chairman of the National Governors Association. “The time frame is unrealistic; the lack of funding is inexcusable.” Some of the law’s defenders, noting that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers had driver’s licenses, say the states’ complaints are unfounded. “We passed a very workable, reasonable, common-sense piece of legislation,” said Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for the law’s main sponsor, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wi.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. No state is in complete compliance with the law because the Department of Homeland Security will not issue rules for putting it in place until later this year