Maine Gov. Baldacci Expected to Sign Bill Blocking Real ID

By | June 8, 2007

Gov. John Baldacci is expected to sign a bill prohibiting Maine from implementing Real ID, the national identity card system that’s been vilified by critics as unworkable and too expensive, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Months after Maine lawmakers led a national revolt against the federal program by passing a resolution objecting to the 2005 act of Congress, Maine’s House and Senate this week gave final approval to the bill that goes a step further by prohibiting the state from implementing Real ID.

The bill was sent to Baldacci, who opposes Real ID and is expected to sign the bill, said spokesman David Farmer. The federal government, meanwhile, has eased the time lines for states to comply amid federal legislation to repeal the program.

In the State House, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap lobbied for passage of the bill keeping Maine out, saying it’s impractical and could cost Maine taxpayers $185 million over its first five years.

“It’s unrealistic, it’s science fiction,” said Dunlap. “I can’t say enough bad things about it.”

Passage of the bill also came at the urging of an ideologically diverse coalition of groups spearheaded by the Maine Civil Liberties Union. The coalition believed that the program was not only unworkable, but would also trample on privacy rights while creating a bonanza for identity thieves, said MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows.

The program sets a national standard for driver’s licenses and encourages states to link their record-keeping systems to national databases. While it’s technically voluntary, it would inconvenience residents of non-complying states because their existing IDs would not be acceptable credentials for entering many facilities, said Dunlap.

The law’s supporters have said Real ID is needed to prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from getting fake identification cards.

Since Maine passed the resolution opposing Real ID in late January, more than a dozen states followed suit with resolutions or statutory prohibitions. Legislation is pending in another 20 states, according to supporters of the Maine legislation.

As federal legislation to repeal the program appeared, the Bush administration agreed in March to give states more time to comply with new driver’s license standards. States asking for extensions were given one through Dec. 31, 2009, a year and a half past the original May 2008 deadline.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, seeks to repeal Real ID and replace it with a program that’s fully funded and protects privacy rights, said spokesman Mark Sullivan.

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