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PASS ID Act Fixes Problems With Hastily Passed REAL ID

Even as we near the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a nation we have yet to take the necessary steps to prevent would-be terrorists from forging state identification documents — a critical recommendation of the 9/11 commission. [IMGCAP(1)]We have an opportunity in the current Congress with the PASS ID Act. As governors, we are happy to recognize a bipartisan effort by Members of Congress and the administration to once and for all set meaningful, workable and cost-effective standards for state driver’s licenses and ID cards. Congress’ last attempt to address these issues through the REAL ID Act — which was attached to the must-pass tsunami relief bill in 2005 — largely ignored the advice of governors and other stakeholders and imposed a set of unfunded, top-down mandates. PASS ID reflects the input of our nation’s governors and is supported by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, herself a former governor.Why is this important now? Because come Jan. 1, 2010, any license from a state not in compliance with REAL ID will not be recognized for purposes of getting on a commercial aircraft. PASS ID is a workable solution for the unworkable REAL ID. This legislation gives states an affordable way to achieve the ID and driver’s license standards that are required to close the gaps that the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States identified to make our nation safer. It is a realistic, cost-effective and expedient way to make America safer. Fortunately, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) and Ohio Sen. George Voinovich (R), have stayed on top of the issues raised by REAL ID. They introduced PASS ID, are holding hearings and are asking tough questions of states and the administration. And when Napolitano became secretary of Homeland Security, they found that they had an ally in seeking solutions to actually make licenses more secure. Created by legislators, governors, advocates and the people who will actually be on the front lines processing applicants and enforcing the law, PASS ID would allow the states one year after the final adoption of its regulations to be materially compliant. States would then be given until 2016 to reach full compliance, which is earlier than the 2017 deadline under REAL ID. PASS ID builds on the strengths of REAL ID while eliminating its weaknesses. It sets tough security standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards while allowing states to innovate and surpass federal requirements. It also reduces costs by getting rid of unnecessary requirements to use electronic systems that do not exist and paying for the use of federal systems to verify Social Security numbers and legal status.PASS ID’s common-sense approach is what was always needed and reflects the recommendations and practices that would have been developed had passage of REAL ID not interfered. Its pragmatic, cooperative approach also will encourage states to participate and save states nearly $2 billion off REAL ID’s $4 billion price tag. This is an important consideration when states are facing record deficits. In fact, 13 states are so opposed to REAL ID that they enacted statutes that either forbid or outright preclude compliance. The reality is that come January 2010, more than 46 million people who live in states that are not in compliance will not be able to use their state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards to pass airport security or to access certain federal facilities. At a minimum, airports across the nation will be in disarray, and the federal government will be in the same place it was in when it considered REAL ID — forced to act too quickly. REAL ID cannot and will not do what it was intended to do. In fact, failed implementation will make America appear more vulnerable, and the unfunded mandates will force states to decide between security and other essential services for their citizens. On Sunday, during the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, Republican and Democratic governors stood with Napolitano to urge Congress to fix the law by approving the PASS ID Act. PASS ID reflects governors’ commitment to increasing the security and integrity of state driver’s licenses and ID cards and embraces the level of cooperation between federal and state government needed to make it work. And given the importance of the issues at stake, as a nation we have to make it work.Jim Douglas (R) is governor of Vermont and chairman of the National Governors Association. Martin O’Malley (D) is governor of Maryland.

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