The Idaho House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send House Joint Memorial #3, which opposes the Real ID national driver’s license standards imposed by Congress in 2005, to the full House.
“It’s a back-door approach to creating a national ID card,” said Phil Hart, R-Athol, co-chair of the transportation committee and sponsor of the bill. Because it was attached to a Congressional appropriations bill, it never had a public hearing, he told the committee.
Members of organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute testified in favor of the memorial.
In addition to the cost — $11 billion for states as a whole, and up to $40 million setup for Idaho and $2 to $9 million per year thereafter – and the civil liberties implications, it would also increase the workload at Departments of Motor Vehicles by 75% because renewal by mail or by the Internet would no longer be permitted, said Hannah Saono, legislative counsel for ACLU Idaho. In addition, because of all the personal information required to be contained on the card, both private and government organizations could capture the data to create a massive database not subject to privacy rules, she said.
Moreover, the ID would not even accomplish its purported goal, which is to protect Americans against terrorists and dissuade illegal aliens, said Jim Harper of the Cato Institute. The value of legitimate identification documents adds up to some $250,000 over a person’s lifetime – certainly enough to make it worthwhile for a person to find a way to circumvent the system, he said. Plus, while the documents themselves might not be counterfeited, the “breeder documents” that people bring in to get their IDs could be counterfeit, or Department of Motor Vehicles employees could be bribed to create genuine but illegitimate documents, he said.
In another security hole, the act requires a database consolidating the information from all the states, and the Department of Homeland Security has decided the best way to do that is to outsource the functionality to a contractor, said Bill Scannell, communications director for the Identity Project, a nonprofit organization focused on identity issues.
In other words, DHS is saying, “’In order to protect your privacy, we want the states to give breeder documents, biometric identifiers, and Social Security numbers to a private contractor who has absolutely no responsibility under the law to respect people’s privacy,’” he said.
The act also specifies what information must be included on the card, taking away the right of states to decide what information goes on a driver’s license, said Scannell.
Transportation Chairman JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said she had met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino on Friday to ask about the Real ID program. They are aware of the cost of the program to the states, as well as the loads on Bureaus of Vital Statistics, which would be slammed with requests for the birth certificates required to get a Real ID, Wood said.
Moreover, though the Real ID program is required to be implemented by May 11, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security is 14 months behind where it should be in promulgating the rules governing how states should be implementing the IDs, said Julie Pipal, of the Office of Budget, Policy and Intergovernmental Relations for the Idaho Transportation Department. “We can’t even begin to comply without those rules in place,” she said.
Unless the House chooses to speed up the procedure, it likely won’t vote on the memorial until next week, at which point it would also go to the Senate and then to Governor Butch Otter – who, according to the Idaho Statesman, is backing away from the act even though he was one of its initial cosponsors in Congress.