Maine gets extension for Real ID program

The Homeland Security Department today gave Maine an extension for complying with new federal rules for state identification issuance. That means Maine residents can continue to use their state driver’s licenses and ID cards to board commercial aircraft and enter federal buildings, at least through 2009.

Maine had been the only state that was not granted an extension before the March 31 deadline for granting such requests. Other states whose legislatures have passed laws preventing them from complying with the Real ID mandate were given forbearance. DHS decided to give those states extensions because of security measures they had put in place, on their own accord, that coincide with those required by Real ID.

However, on the March 31 deadline for requesting an extension, DHS told Maine Gov. John Baldacci that Maine's credentialing enhancements hadn’t been enough to meet the spirit of Real ID requirements. DHS instead gave Baldacci an ultimatum — commit to improvements by 5 p.m. today or Maine residents would have to use other forms of identification to travel by air as of May 11.

The final Real ID rule published in January says that as of May 11, residents of states that have not been granted extensions must use other forms of identification to fly on commercial aircraft and enter federal buildings. By granting Maine an extension, ID cards issued by all United States jurisdictions will be valid until Dec. 31, 2009, when the extension runs out. By then states are supposed to have bolstered the security of their systems.

Baldacci wrote DHS today outlining improvements that the state was undertaking to meet the spirit of the Real ID Act.

“I believe the requests made by the Department of Homeland Security are reasonable, and I will use the resources at my disposal to make sure they are implemented. I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature and Secretary of State on these important issues,” Baldacci said in a statement announcing that DHS had given Maine the extension.

Baldacci pledged that he would submit legislation today to limit state credentials to U.S. citizens or to others who are in the country legally.

He said Maine will also:

  • Work with DHS to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements  Program to verify DHS documents presented by noncitizens.

  • Set the term for licenses given lawfully to noncitizens to expire when their legal status ends.

  • Look into finding a cost-effective biometric solution for verifying that people do not get multiple driver’s licenses or ID cards.

  • Change the state's driver’s license procedures so that photographs are taken at the beginning of the process at its department of motor vehicles.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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