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Congress Works to Stall Real ID Act

Submitted on Tue, 05/06/2008 – 22:05.

The cost for the new national identification cards is expected to be $40 more than the standard driver’s licenses, but Secretary of State Jesse White‘s office says the federal government has yet to pay for the cost of the IDs.

In April 2007, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Barack Obama (D-Ill) passed a joint resolution along with 19 other states to halt the Real ID program until the federal government finds a way to reimburse the states for the cost.

“States are responsible for putting together driving licenses, and they are expensive. The cost would have to be a decision the states would have to end up making,” said Tom Ferrone, legislative correspondent for Durbin.

The estimated cost to states nationwide would be $4 billion to meet the federal government’s standards for the new IDs, and Illinois will have to pay an estimated $150 million over five years, of which the federal government has not offered any money, said Dave Druker, press secretary for White’s office.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place, and we have no resources from the government,” said Druker.

In an effort to save time and money, the Secretary of State’s Office plans to make the national ID card separate from the driver’s license, Druker said. In order for people to board planes, he explained, they will need to purchase both forms of IDs and U.S. citizens will only be eligible for the card, but there is still the option to purchase passports.

“Nine million people in Illinois are drivers, and four million have state IDs; instead of making one card everyone would have to get, we would give them the option to use a passport,” said Druker.

But senators and governors across the country say the cost of the Real ID program is not the only problem; it poses a privacy and civil liberties threat as well.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in May 2005 to fight terrorism and ensure better security for airlines. It stemmed from the 9/11 Commission, which concluded that terrorists used different state and federal identification cards to enter the country.

The purpose of the bill is to board planes as well as get into federal buildings and nuclear power plants, but it passed as a bill to help the troops in Iraq said Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It creates a one-stop shopping system for identity thieves across the country,” said Yohnka.

The Real ID Act requires the deadline for states to comply by May 11, 2008, but all 50 states have filed for an extension, and most including Illinois have been granted. The expected date for national ID rollout is no later than Jan. 1, 2010, according to the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

Yohnka said the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislators and the U.S. House of Representatives will be urging Congress in the coming months for an appropriation of $1 billion for the Real ID program.

“I don’t talk to anybody who actually expects Real ID to be implemented ever; it was ill-considered and ill-conceived, and no practical cost factors were taken into consideration,” said Yohnka.

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9/11 commission congres durbin homeland security obama

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