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February 6, 2017

Diamond, Pingree push bills to address Maine's Real ID problem

Courtesy / Office of Sen. Bill Diamond Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, on the floor of the Maine Senate in Augusta. Diamond has sponsored a bill, LD 306, that is intended to put Maine in compliance with federal Real ID requirements.

Since Jan. 30, a Maine-issued driver’s license no longer ensures access to nuclear power plants, military bases and certain other federal facilities due to tighter federal requirements under the Real ID Act of 2005. Next year, starting Jan. 22, Maine IDs will no longer be accepted by the TSA, which will prevent Mainers from boarding commercial planes.

Two lawmakers — state Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District — are pushing separate bills at the state and federal levels to address those problems.

Diamond’s bill, LD 306, “An Act to Require State Compliance with Federal Real ID Guidelines,” repeals a 2007 state law that prohibits the state from participating in the federal Real ID Act of 2005 and prevents the Maine Secretary of State from changing procedures for applying for a driver's license or non-driver identification card in a manner to conform to the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

Diamond’s bill directs the Secretary of State to issue driver's licenses and non-driver identification cards that conform to the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, including meeting its standards for new facial recognition and fingerprinting and requirements involving proof of identity and citizenship at the time of application.

“Mainers deserve the same right to travel, unimpeded, the same way as anyone else,” Diamond said in a written statement about LD 306. “We cannot allow Maine veterans to be denied access to hospitals, Maine business people to be denied from federal property and Maine citizens to be kept from boarding planes.”

On a motion by state Sen. Ronald Collins, R-Wells, the bill was referred on Feb. 2 to the Committee on Transportation for discussion and review.

Pingree co-sponsors federal bill

On Jan. 31, Pingree co-sponsored a bill with two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Mark Sanford of  South Carolina and Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina to provide relief to residents of Maine and other non-compliant states.

H.R. 755, “the Real ID Privacy Protection Act,” would do four things:

  • Eliminate the requirement for source document archiving.

  • Eliminate the state department of motor vehicles database inter-accessibility requirement.

  • Grant a uniform extension for all non-compliant states to Oct. 10, 2017.

  • Require the Department of Homeland Security to issue a report to Congress, detailing all aspects of complying with the law and each state’s compliance status for each item.

  • Besides Maine, the noncompliant states are Washington, Montana, Minnesota and Missouri, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Seven other states — Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia — have been granted limited extensions through June 6.

    “My constituents are worried about not being able to gain access to federal facilities or even board a flight in the coming months,” Pingree said in a written statement. “These include 500 veterans who were told they didn’t have the right identification to access their VA doctors on an Air Force base. These folks shouldn’t have to deal with a problem that they didn’t create.”

    Sanford characterized the Real ID Act as “a thorn in South Carolina’s side since it was introduced in 2005.”

    “I continue this fight now because the Real ID Act is an unfunded mandate that essentially creates a de facto national database, which threatens personal privacy and violates state sovereignty,” he said in a written statement. “This bill responds to these issues, brings more transparency to the REAL ID criteria and mandates equality in the treatment of all states.”

    H.R. 755 was referred on Jan. 31 to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    Not waiting for Washington

    For his part, Diamond isn’t willing to wait to see if the Republican bill that Pingree has signed on as a co-sponsor will be approved by the GOP majority in Congress.

    “I sincerely hope that Rep. Pingree’s bill passes Congress, but given the explosive nature of politics in Washington and gridlock in Congress stretching back nearly a decade, Maine cannot wait for relief from D.C.,” he said. “Maine lawmakers have the power to correct this problem, and it’s our responsibility to do so on behalf of all our constituents whose freedom will be restricted if we do not.”

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