N.H. Governor Signs Law Rejecting ‘Unfunded’ National ID Card

By | July 2, 2007

New Hampshire has officially rejected the federal Real ID Act as tantamount to requiring a national ID card, joining five other states in opposing it.

South Carolina, Montana, Washington, Oklahoma and Maine also have rejected the federal act.

“Here in New Hampshire, we pride ourselves on being frugal, and here in New Hampshire, we pride ourselves on respecting the privacy of our neighbors,” Gov. John Lynch said at a ceremony at which he signed the bill.

The law’s supporters say it is needed to prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from getting fake identification cards. Critics say it is too intrusive, too costly and likely to be abused by identity thieves.

The Real ID Act was 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.

New Hampshire’s law calls the act “repugnant” to the state and federal constitutions. The law prohibits the state from complying with the act, which sets standards for state-issued driver’s licenses.

“We are not about to be coerced into an unfunded mandate, especially one we’d have to pay for with our privacy,” Lynch said.

In April, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is developing a high-tech state driver’s license that can serve as a border-crossing document, signed legislation rejecting Real ID.

That new law says Washington state will not implement the new Real ID system unless: Uncle Sam foots the bill, the government takes steps to ensure that privacy and data security concerns are addressed and the system doesn’t place unreasonable costs or recordkeeping burdens on the average citizen.

In Washington, D.C., last Wednesday, a group of senators including Republican John Sununu backed an effort to eliminate Real ID from the immigration bill.

“This amendment reinforces what the citizens of New Hampshire have known all along _ Real ID is too intrusive, too expensive and unnecessary,” Sununu said. “The federal government should work with the states to improve standards for issuing drivers’ licenses, but the ultimate responsibility for issuing and maintaining that ID system should be kept by the states.”

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

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