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State senator wants Maryland to oppose federal REAL ID Act

February 16, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - A state senator is pushing for Maryland to revolt against federal driver's license and identification standards that take effect next year.

Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring a joint resolution calling for Maryland to refuse to obey the REAL ID Act of 2005 and for Congress to repeal it.

Her resolution alleges that a national database will "invite theft of identity and invasion of privacy" and the act "will impose inconveniences and higher taxes on Marylanders with no attendant benefit such as protection from terrorism."

She said the cost of a new Maryland driver's license could rise from $45 to $195.

Congress passed the act as an anti-terrorism measure. Licenses and ID cards from states not meeting federal standards cannot be used for an "official purpose," such as boarding an airplane or entering a federal building.

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Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center testified in favor of Forehand's resolution Thursday in front of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Verifying the validity of official documents used to obtain licenses and IDs would be a burden for states, said Jay Stanley, the public education director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project.

Maine's legislature passed a resolution declaring that it won't comply, calling the act an unfunded mandate, an inconvenience with no real benefit and a potential invasion of privacy because states' records will be linked through a national database.

Stanley said other states are crafting their own protests.

The law takes effect in May 2008. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security hasn't told states yet what the federal standards will be, said Molly Ramsdell of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

No one testified against Forehand's resolution, but a few senators on the committee defended the REAL ID act and its intent.

Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, said constituents, knowing that 9/11 hijackers were aided by fake driver's licenses, would pay extra to make the system more secure.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil/Harford, said a Sept. 11 ringleader had an expired visa when stopped by a police officer, but a valid driver's license, so the officer let him go.

"He never would have made his way onto that airplane and flown it into the World Trade Center," she said.

The cost of rolling out REAL ID standards has been estimated at $150 million for the state, but the head of Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration said at a House committee briefing last month that the state's cost would be much lower.

Del. Henry B. Heller, D-Montgomery, has filed the same version of Forehand's resolution in the House of Delegates.

On the Web at mlis.state.md.us: SJ 5 and HJ 3

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