N.H. Joins Maine in Opposing Federal Real ID Program

By | June 12, 2007

Calling the federal Real ID Act “repugnant” to the state and federal constitutions, New Hampshire lawmakers voted to join other states — including neighboring Maine — in rejecting the federal Real ID Act as tantamount to requiring a national ID card.

The House voted last Thursday to send a bill to Gov. John Lynch that would bar the state from complying with the federal law, which sets standards for state-issued driver’s licenses. Lynch’s spokesman saidthe governor will sign it.

Also last week, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed into law a bill prohibiting the state from implementing Real ID.

The New Hampshire bill also contains an unrelated provision to pay a death benefit for police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Two police officers have died in the line of duty in the past eight months. Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said Lynch also supports the death benefit.

Real ID opponents said the state needed to send a clear statement that the federal government went too far in threatening individual privacy.

Last year, New Hampshire — one of two states picked to pilot the Real ID program — was the first state to consider rejecting the federal law, but the bill failed in the Senate.

Still, other states took up the fight. Maine passed a resolution opposing it in January and this spring Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed similar bills blocking their states from implementing the national rules.

President Bush recently bowed to pressure from the nation’s governors and Congress and granted states until Dec. 31, 2009, to comply. Two years ago, Congress set a deadline for states to comply with uniform licensing standards by May 2008.

The law passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It requires all states to bring their driver’s licenses under a national standard and to link their record-keeping systems. States must verify identification used to obtain a driver’s license, such as birth certificates, Social Security numbers and passports.

Driver’s licenses not meeting the standard won’t be accepted as identification to board an airplane or enter a federal building.

Critics complain the law is too intrusive and costly to states to implement. They also say a national database of drivers’ information will be a target for thieves looking to steal identities.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, the prime sponsor of the New Hampshire bill, says legislation or resolutions have been introduced in at least 26 states opposing Real ID.

Lynch and the Executive Council rejected the $3 million federal grant attached to the pilot project last year. Earlier this year, he reiterated his concern that Real ID could end up costing the state tens of millions of dollars for implementation and enforcement, and said he also had privacy concerns.

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