State Officials Not Sold On New License Rules

State Officials Not Sold On New License Rules

State officials and some in Congress remain skeptical about new federal rules for driver's licenses, even after major changes designed to cut the cost of those rules and provide more flexibility.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Friday (Jan. 11) released final rules for the Real ID Act of 2005, giving states nearly five extra years to verify the identity of an estimated 245 million drivers and reissue secure licenses to them. The regulations also give states more leeway in securing the licensing process and in what fraud-prevention features are required on the actual cards.

“We initially estimated Real ID would cost states more than $11 billion. These regulations offer states some flexibility that may tame those costs,” said William T. Pound, executive director of the bi-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “Still, the fact remains that the administration has not asked Congress to fund state costs, and Congress has only provided states $90 million,” Pound said.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-sponsor of a bill to repeal Real ID, blasted the finalized rules as too little too late. “It is unfortunate that instead of addressing the fundamental problems this law poses for the states, the Administration appears content merely to prolong a contentious and unproductive battle to force the states to comply,” he said in a written statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters that the revised rules would cost states $3.9 billion over 10 years and said the average price of each new license would rise just $8 under Real ID — a bargain for the added protection from terrorism and fraud.

“For an added $8 per license, Real ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage against falsified documents, and it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal alien,” Chertoff said.

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