HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania Senate today continued the drumbeat of the states' opposition to the federal Real ID program by unanimously passing legislation to block its implementation in the commonwealth. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania supports the bill, Senate Bill 621, and praised the Senate for taking decisive action.
"Real ID is a de facto national ID card and is a radical new step in invading the privacy of Pennsylvanians and all Americans," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The Senate has shown leadership in stopping Real ID from becoming a reality here."
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as part of an appropriations bill to fund American troops overseas and victims of the 2004 tsunami in South Asia. Real ID forces new mandates on the states regarding the distribution of drivers' licenses.
Hoover cited multiple privacy problems for license holders as a result of Real ID, including a mandate on PennDOT to store copies of individuals' personal documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards, and the linking of the databases of the departments of motor vehicles in all 56 licensing jurisdictions, creating a massive new national database.
"Real ID is a honeypot for identity thieves," Hoover said.
Senator Mike Folmer is the primary sponsor of SB 621 and has played a key role in moving the bill forward in the Senate. If the bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed by Governor Rendell, Pennsylvania would become the 16th state to block the implementation of Real ID via statute. The 15 states that have opted out to date comprise a diverse group that includes Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, Georgia, and Oklahoma.
Hoover also noted Real ID's digital photo requirement, which poses First Amendment freedom of religion issues for persons of varying faiths, including the Amish, who acquire non-drivers', non-photo ID cards for conducting federal business; Muslim women; and Sikh men.
"When the Department of Homeland Security issued its final regulations on Real ID, it simply ignored this issue," Hoover said.
PennDOT has estimated that Real ID will cost the commonwealth approximately $100-$120 million to implement and $40-$50 million annually to maintain. Congress has appropriated no significant funds for the states to start Real ID.
SB 621 now moves to the House for consideration. In 2008, the House unanimously passed similar legislation.
The federal government's deadline for compliance with Real ID is May, 2011.