Senate bill would loosen IT requirements under Real ID

Legislation would remove controversial information technology requirements of the Real ID Act

Senior senators today introduced legislation that would amend controversial federal information technology-related requirements for state-issued identification cards and driver’s licenses under the Real ID law.

The bill would remove a portion of the Real ID law that requires states to provide other states access to their motor vehicle databases. Also, the legislation would continue to fund a Homeland Security Department pilot project that helps determine if someone has another license or ID from another state, but would not authorize a national database.

The Real ID Act’s requirements have been controversial. Some state legislatures and governors have taken action to opt out of the program, citing concerns about the cost of the program and the effect it would have on states’ rights. Meanwhile, privacy advocates have also complained about the program requirements saying the current law poses greater risks to privacy and increases the chance of identity theft.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and co-sponsored by Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.), would add new protections for personally identifiable information.

The bill also clarifies one of the more controversial requirements of REAL ID. Under the current rule to implement the law, DHS has said that people would not be able to use a driver’s license or state-issued ID to board an airplane if that state was not complying with the regulations. However, although the bill would still require people compliant ID’s to board aircraft, the proposal adds a provision that says no person can be denied boarding an aircraft solely on the basis of a lack of an ID that complies with the law.

The bill got quick praise from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who as governor of Arizona signed legislation in 2008 that refused to put in place the "Real ID" requirements.

“Today’s introduction of [the bill]...brings us closer to greater compliance with federal standards for secure driver’s licenses and better protection against terrorists and other threats nationwide,” Napolitano said, adding that she was “committed to supporting this important bill.”




About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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