Federal reps want to put brakes to Real ID

by Phil Drake

Montana’s congressional delegation said Tuesday it has introduced legislation in the House and Senate repealing federal mandates for driver’s licenses included in the Real ID Act of 2005.

The “Repeal Real ID Act” proposed by Republicans Rep. Ryan Zinke and Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is comparable to legislation Daines introduced in 2014 while serving in the House. Tester first wrote and introduced legislation to block the implementation of Real ID standards, the “Identification Security Enhancement Act,” in 2007.

By repealing Title II of the Real ID Act of 2005, which establishes national standards for driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards, the “Repeal ID Act” will ensure that the 2007 Montana law banning compliance with Real ID driver’s license mandates is protected, the Montana officials said.

Daines said during a Jan. 7 news conference in Helena with Attorney General Tim Fox that he would introduce the repeal Real ID legislation. The news conference came a day after the state announced it was issuing a new driver’s license with stricter security protections.

The Department of Homeland Security recently granted Montana an extension for meeting Real ID mandates until Oct. 10. Without an additional extension or repeal of the REAL ID requirements, Montanans will eventually be required to show additional documents of identification when flying in the United States.

The Real ID Act was passed to prevent terrorism and identity theft by improving the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The Associated Press reported.

Montana and several other states oppose requirements in the law that include storing images of documents that driver’s license applicants present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates. AP reported that state officials say that information could be breached and could be used to track law-abiding U.S. citizens.

They also oppose the U.S. government setting standards in an area traditionally handled by the states.

Homeland Security officials insist Real ID does not create a national identification card and that there is no federal database of driver information.

Daines said Montanans have said they don’t want Real ID or the federal government infringing on personal privacy.

“The Repeal ID Act ensures Montanans’ voices are heard and will help strike the right balance that protects our security while also safeguarding Montanans’ civil liberties,” he said via email.

Tester said he will keep fighting to protect Montanans from “this costly overreach that invades privacy and forces local taxpayers to foot the bill.”

He added that Real ID violated constitution freedoms.

Zinke said it was important to ensure state’s rights.

“While maintaining security standards is important, we cannot allow the federal government to infringe on our right to privacy and strip Montana of our state sovereignty,” he said via email.

The Montana Legislature in 2007 voted unanimously not to comply with the federal law. Failing to follow the standards could result in Montana driver’s licenses not being accepted to board commercial aircraft or enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants.

Montana has been granted two extensions to comply with the law, and the current one expires in October. The last extension approved by Homeland Security officials noted that Montana meets 33 requirements of the Real ID Act but does not meet eight others.

The new driver’s licenses and identification cards unveiled by the state feature ultraviolet ink, a laser perforation, a two-dimensional barcode and a drawing of Glacier National Park.

All of those upgrades are Real ID-compliant, but they don’t include additional markings required by the federal law or text that notes a person’s citizenship status, Motor Vehicle Division administrator Sarah Garcia told The Associated Press.