U.S. Rep. Backs Maine Effort to Repeal Federal Drivers License Act

By | February 23, 2007

U.S. Rep. Tom Allen joined with a group of Democratic state lawmakers at the Maine State House on Tuesday to amplify his call for the repeal and replacement of the federal homeland security law known as the Real ID Act.

“It’s not enough merely to delay” provisions slated for May 2008, Allen said, urging the establishment of a process for rewriting security safeguards.

Allen, a 1st District Democrat, said legislation he filed last week was aimed at setting up “negotiated rulemaking” to replace the law, which he said constituted an unfunded financial mandate on states that could leave personal information at risk.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said earlier this month she will try to delay implementation of the program.

Allen has said he is considering a challenge to Collins’ re-election bid next year and Senate Minority Leader Carol Weston of Montville issued a statement Tuesday criticizing Allen, saying the news conference “looks more like a Senate campaign stop.”

States currently have until the spring of 2008 to comply with a federal law setting a national standard for driver’s licenses and requiring states to link their record-keeping systems to national databases.

Last month, with strong bipartisan support, Maine lawmakers adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution in opposition to the federal law. Since then, concerns have been raised in other states.

Critics cite the costs to the states of implementation and the potential for invasions of privacy and ID fraud.

“We can’t just delay this mess from happening. We need to fix it now,” said state House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven.

The news conference was a Democratic affair, although Democratic Senate Majority Leader Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro credited a Republican legislator, Rep. Scott Lansley of Sabattus, for taking a leading role in the opposition movement.

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who did not attend the news conference held just outside his office in the State House Hall of Flags, put himself among other critics of the federal program and behind Allen’s effort.

“I support what he’s trying to do, what they’re trying to do in the Legislature,” Baldacci said.

Collins announced on Feb. 9 that she would sponsor a bill to give states more time to comply with the Real ID Act as well as to have a say in modifying the rules.

“I am fully aware that the costs of complying with Real ID are enormous and overly burdensome to states, including Maine. I will be introducing this legislation so that we can pause and take a more measured approach to Real ID,” Collins said in a statement after a Capitol Hill meeting with Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

Allen said Tuesday his bill would bring together federal officials from the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation and from the states with experts on privacy, civil liberties and constitutional rights.

The goal, he said, would be to protect national security and privacy.

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