Monday, May 19, 2008

REAL ID UPDATE: North Carolina, Minnesota Stand Tall - Sensenbrenner melts down

Ahhh...this is one of those long train wrecks that one can take a deep pleasure in watching. The train wreck I refer to of course, is the slow death of the liberty stomping REAL ID Act that was slipped through as an attachment to a supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war in 2005.

As I have detailed on this blog over the past few months, this "National ID" concept continues to meet resistance across the country whenever the public - or state leaders - get a chance to review and comment on it.

A quick review: The Real ID Act would turn our state driver’s licenses into a genuine national identity card and impose numerous new burdens on taxpayers, citizens, immigrants, and state governments – while doing nothing to protect against terrorism.

This new federal identity document would be required of every American in order to fly on commercial airlines, enter government buildings, open a bank account, and more. The common reaction from concerned public citizens across the country to the Act has centered on the threat it would pose to individual privacy, the high costs states would incur to implement it, the increased danger of identity theft, and the possible loss of freedoms due to expanded government power.

The good news is that state after state is joining forces to oppose Real ID Act...with North Carolina and Minnesota just taking two more big steps in that direction.

First, as reported in the News-Record: "N.C. lawmakers target ID law":

Both fiscal conservatives worried about the law's impact on state spending and more liberal members, who express concerns about the potential for invasion of privacy, signed on to a bill this past week that demands, "No State agency shall comply with the requirements of the REAL ID ACT."

That 2005 federal law created uniform standards for state driver's licenses in an effort to make identification harder to fake or obtain for those here illegally. Should the North Carolina proposal pass and the federal government not change the current law, North Carolinians would be unable to use their driver's licenses for boarding airplanes or entering U.S. government buildings.


The law would assemble a mammoth database of personal information. That has been a major sticking point for those concerned about government keeping too close a watch on its citizens or about security failures that could put individuals at risk for identity theft.


Maine became the first state to formally reject REAL ID requirements last year; now at least seven states have passed laws similar to North Carolina's. Several other states are in the process of passing laws, including Minnesota, where the legislature voted to reject the federal law over the threat of the governor's veto.

In fact, so many legislatures and governors have said they could not or would not comply with REAL ID, that the Department of Homeland Security granted all 50 states an extension for complying with the new rules from May 11 of this year until Dec. 31, 2009.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota the House and Senate have approved a bill (Update: Gov. Pawlenty just vetoed it) that would bar state driver's license authorities from implementing the federal Real ID regulations altogether.

KSTP TV Reports:

Governor Pawlenty vetoed an earlier attempt to require that conditions be met before the state could change licenses to meet federal rules. But both chambers passed the bill by veto-proof margins: 50-16 in the Senate and 103-30 in the House.

The Real ID mandate would require every citizen to carry a U.S. government-approved card to board a plane or enter a federal facility.

Critics say it will be costly to implement and that too much of people's personal information will be added to a national database. Supporters argue that a more secure identification card will help in homeland security and immigration control efforts.

Now to the especially enjoyable part of this post. As you might have guessed, the "brain" (or lack thereof) behind this constitution squashing idea is none other than Rep. James Sensenbrenner. He's been known for outbursts in the past, including shutting the mic off at a hearing that he chaired so Democrats couldn't make their arguments in the time allotted. So, as you can imagine, the fact that his baby - REAL ID - is getting trounced from sea to shining sea, must be getting on his already frazzled nerves.

The good news is it evidenced by this report from Wisconsin's Capital Times. apparently Sensenbrenner went nuts at what was supposed to be a friendly gathering of that endangered species called Republicans. It appears he's a little resentful that there has been a surprisingly BIPARTISAN effort to jettison REAL ID in states across the country...including his own:

The state's senior Republican at the federal level was furious with the top state Republican's moves to block implementation of the Real ID Act. And he suggested that Huebsch had abandoned Republican principles during the recent debate over the state budget repair bill. "We need to act like Republicans and vote like Republicans," the Menomonee Falls Republican declared, in a pointed jab at Huebsch, a West Salem legislator who leads an Assembly chamber that has a narrow Republican majority.


Sensenbrenner has led the push for Real ID, a federal law that demands states implement strict security, authentication and issuance procedures standards to limit access to state driver's licenses and state ID cards. Ostensibly, the program is designed to make state identification documents acceptable by the federal government for what the Department of Homeland Security describes as "official purposes."

But civil libertarians and strict-constructionist readers of the Constitution have objected to what they see as a "big-brother" initiative. And they have sought to stall development of the program. In Wisconsin, last week, Huebsch and other Republicans joined Democrats in backing a budget repair bill that strips Real ID of funding necessary for its implementation.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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