While Congress debates national health care legislation that could put new fiscal burdens on the states, the nation's governors are pushing Capitol Hill for a reprieve from another costly federal program that states have long criticized: Real ID.
The program, created in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, requires all states to start issuing more secure driver's licenses by the end of this year. Residents of states that do not comply with the deadline will not be able to board commercial aircraft or enter federal buildings using their driver's licenses beginning in January.
In a letter to congressional leadership on Wednesday (Nov. 18), the National Governors Association disclosed that as many as 36 states won't meet the end-of-year deadline. Another 13 states have thumbed their noses at the federal government by passing laws that prohibit participation in Real ID, which states have long viewed as an unfunded federal mandate that could violate their residents' privacy. The recession, meanwhile, has ravaged state budgets and is likely to further erode states' willingness, or their ability, to comply with Real ID.
In their letter, the governors urged Congress to approve a replacement version of Real ID - known as Pass ID - that would give states more time and flexibility to upgrade their driver's licenses, including the processes used to check applicants' identities. While legislation creating the replacement program is supported by the Obama administration and cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in July, it has not yet reached the floor of either chamber.
"Our citizens should not be punished for the failures of Real ID," the governors wrote. "We therefore ask that you work with us to pass (the Pass ID Act) before the end of the year."