Oregon joins list of states saying no to Real ID

State won't adopt Real ID unless feds reimburse costs, lawmakers say

Oregon is one step closer to becoming the latest in a growing number of states to reject the Real ID Act, which sets a national standard for driver's licenses.

Lawmakers in Oregon's House of Representatives approved a bill on Friday that would prohibit agencies from spending state money to implement the requirements of the Real ID Act unless the federal government reimburses them the money.

The bill, which now heads to the governor for his signature, would also prevent the state Department of Transportation from implementing requirements of the Real ID Act unless it can demonstrate specific security controls for protecting driver's license data. The bill passed the Senate in April.

If signed into law, the bill would make Oregon one of more than two dozen states with measures either rejecting or opposing the Real ID mandate, put in motion by former President George W. Bush.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been tracking state opposition to the bill, currently lists more than a dozen states that have passed statutes prohibiting the implementation of Real ID.

The most recent of those rejections was by Minnesota which in May signed into law a statute that prohibits Real ID implementation. Others include Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Washington.

In addition, another 10 have passed resolutions denouncing Real ID, while anti Real-ID legislation has been introduced in five other states.

The growing number of states blocking Real ID is sure to increase the pressure on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for overseeing the standard, to either drop the initiative or somehow make it more acceptable to states. It's a particularly tricky balancing act for the Obama administration because DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was among the first to reject Real ID as former governor of Arizona.

The Real ID Act was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2005 as part of the government's effort to combat terrorism. Though states are not mandated to implement it, all citizens will eventually need ID cards that comply with the Real ID requirements in order to board planes, enter federal buildings and receive benefits from the federal government. Between 2006 and 2008, the DHS handed out more than $360 million in grants to states for implementing Real ID.

Critics have said the bill will create a de facto national identity card system that could allow an individual's movements and activities to be tracked for a variety of reasons. Because Real ID requires more documentation and identity verification requirements, many also fear it will require states to overhaul their existing driver's license systems at a cost considerably greater than what the federal government appears to have set aside for the initiative.

Under the act, all state driver's license databases would be linked, with shared access across them. The system will allow information in a person's record in any state to be accessible by officials in other states, and by the federal government.

The database could include images of birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security numbers, divorce papers and other information used to issue state identification cards. Many fear that this interconnectedness will make it harder to protect the data and easier for data thieves to steal it for identity theft purposes.

Even a DHS advisory committee has in the past voiced reservations over some of the privacy, security and logistical implications in implementing Real ID.

In response to such opposition, the DHS has considerably eased its initial implementation deadlines, and modified some early requirements, in an attempt to make Real ID more palatable. At one point it said that individuals with standard state-issued driver's licenses will not be able to board commercial aircraft starting May 2008, but the DHS has extended some of the deadlines by years.

Currently, driver's licenses will be acceptable as identification by federal agencies until December 2014, while individuals age 50 or older will not have to show Real ID cards until December 2017.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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