State can save millions of dollars by blocking Real ID, ACLU suggests

January 14, 2009
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HARRISBURG- With difficult state budget decisions ahead, the commonwealth can save millions of taxpayer dollars by blocking the federal Real ID program, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said in a statement today.

The ACLU of PA highlighted the high costs of Real ID in a memo delivered today to leadership in the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives. In 2005, Governor Rendell told the Associated Press that the federal drivers license program would cost the commonwealth "$100 million plus".

"There are a lot of problems with Real ID, and the high cost of implementation is a big one," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of PA. "Pennsylvania is in no position right now to take on this unfunded federal mandate."

The memo from the ACLU of PA was sent to Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow, Speaker of the House Keith McCall, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, and House Minority Leader Samuel Smith.

Congress passed and President Bush signed the Real ID Act in 2005 as part of a funding bill for the military and victims of the tsunami in south Asia. The law imposes standards for state drivers licenses, connects the databases of the states' motor vehicle departments, and requires a machine readable zone on a magnetic strip on the license.

Opponents of Real ID, who extend across the political spectrum, have argued that the law will increase license holders' vulnerability to identity theft and exploitation by the private sector, will be difficult for states to implement, and will create bureaucratic nightmares at DMVs, including long lines and higher fees.

The deadline for states to begin implementing Real ID is December 31.

"Congress foisted this nightmare on the states and now shows no appetite for funding it," Hoover said.

Thus far, Congress has allocated just $90 million for the implementation of Real ID, which must be spread among the 56 states and territories that issue licenses. A 2006 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators estimated that Real ID will cost the states $11 billion.

Last year, the state House passed a bill to block the commonwealth from seeking certification in Real ID, but the Senate did not consider the legislation, House Bill 2537.

Eleven states have passed statutes blocking Real ID while many more, including Pennsylvania, have passed resolutions protesting it.

The ACLU of PA memo to the legislative leaders is available here. The ACLU memo "Fuzzy Math and the Real Cost of Real ID" is available here.

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