Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Real ID Act Will Cause Really Big Problems

Jim Sensenbrenner's "Real ID Bill" has now become law, and most Americans will be aghast when they find out what changes it will bring. Do you look forward to your periodic visit to the Division of Motor Vehicles to renew your driver's license? Well, break out the champagne, because that ritual is going to become longer and more involved.

Rep. Sensenbrenner wants you to provide proof of your identity and legal residence in the United States when you get or renew your license. But there are problems, as explained here:
States fear the new rules may force applicants to make more than one trip to motor vehicle departments, once to provide documents such as birth certificates that states must verify and a second time to pick up the license, state officials said.
But you won't be the only one enjoying the new system. Under this law,
by May 2008 every state will be required to contact the issuers of birth certificates, mortgage statements, utility bills, Social Security cards, and immigration papers before granting a driver's license. States will also have to keep copies of those documents for seven years.
And who will pay for all this? It gets even better:
Cheye Calvo, of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the bill imposes big costs and sets an unrealistic three-year deadline for states without giving them a voice in the process. Congress estimated it will cost about $100 million to purchase the necessary equipment to meet the Real ID Act's demands, but Calvo said the real figure is likely to be $500 million to $700 million.

''We don't have a whole lot of confidence that the money is going to materialize in the federal budget to pay for all these tedious new mandates," Calvo said.
Sensenbrenner thinks his new law involves just standing in line for a few more minutes, and that will prevent thousands of people from being killed by an airplane attack. Wrong on two counts!

He, like many politicians, is totally out of touch with the life of regular people. (I think the DMV staff does a fine job of processing customers relative to the meager amount of resources they have, but my last renewal took almost two hours. What are the chances that F. James sits around that long?) And terrorists may well be in this country legally or at least have good forged documents to present to the harassed folks at the DMV. This law will not help prevent terrorism as much as, say, protecting nuclear power plants.

What it will do is create a set of state databases full of personal information on most of the U.S. population, ready for identity thieves to access. And our driver's licenses will be standardized in all states--the precursor of a national identity card?

Raise your hand if you think a Real ID is really worth having.

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