HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation today to block the Commonwealth’s participation in the federal Real ID program, a controversial law on drivers’ licenses.The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania praised the House action on House Bill 2537 and warned of the dangers of Real ID.

“This is a great first step toward ending Real ID,” said Andy Hoover, legislative assistant for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.“It is in real trouble in Pennsylvania.Two days of debate in the House indicated that the opposition to Real ID is bi-partisan and overwhelming.

“The best thing the General Assembly can do is block Pennsylvania’s participation in this unfunded federal mandate.”

If HB 2537 is passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Rendell, Pennsylvania would become the 11th state, as of today, and the largest state to block implementation of Real ID. Earlier this month, Arizona became the most recent state to reject the program. The Arizona bill passed a Republican-controlled legislature and was signed by a Democratic governor.

The Real ID Act passed Congress in 2005 without hearings and without debate. It was attached to a must-pass appropriations bill that provided funding to American troops overseas and victims of the South Asian tsunami.

It has been the center of controversy ever since.

Real ID requires that the databases of the Departments of Motor Vehicles of the 50 states and the U.S. territories are linked to each other, a requirement that many privacy advocates claim increases the risk of identity theft. The law also requires drivers’ licenses to have a machine readable zone. In its final regulations on Real ID, the Department of Homeland Security did not require that this machine readable zone be encrypted, which raised the concerns of many advocates.

“Not encrypting that information allows the private sector to exploit the information on the license for its own purposes,” Hoover said.

HB 2537 states that the Commonwealth will not seek certification in Real ID. Meanwhile, the ACLU has been advocating for stronger language in the final bill. Bills passed in Arizona and South Carolina, for example, have stated clearly that those states will not participate in Real ID.

“We want to ensure that the door is absolutely slammed shut on Real ID in Pennsylvania,” Hoover said.