AUGUSTA — Two state senators say they want President Trump to suspend parts of a federal law that requires states to create databases and add information to state-issued drivers’ licenses and identification cards.
Maine is one of five states that haven’t adopted laws to implement the new standards, which were signed into law by President George W. Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Sens. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, said they hope other Maine lawmakers and those from other states will sign a letter asking Trump to put the law on hold.
The federal Real ID Act has already affected Mainers’ ability to access federal buildings and military facilities, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. The law says Maine driver’s licenses will no longer be a accepted as identification for boarding commercial airline flights as of January 2018.
Bellows and Brakey said requiring the state to set up a database that would include scans of birth certificates and other documents represents an unfunded federal mandate. The database also would be a “one-stop shop” for identity thieves, they said at a press conference Thursday.
Bellows, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said creating a new state database that could be accessed by federal agents of the Transportation Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security puts Mainers’ personal data at risk.
Quoting their letter to Trump, Bellows said, “Please issue an executive order to allow citizens of all states to enter federal buildings and board airplanes as they have been able to do until this point.”
The letter also asks Trump to direct Congress to change the federal law.
Meanwhile, the Legislature’s Transportation Committee Thursday tabled a bill by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, that would move Maine toward meeting the federal standard. The bill would repeal a 2007 law prohibiting Maine state government from implementing the Real ID program. The committee voted to table the bill while it sought additional details about costs and timing from Maine’s secretary of state, which is the issuing authority for licenses and state identification cards. Even if the law were changed today it would take at least two years to fully implement, Patty Morneault, deputy secretary of state for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, told the committee. Implementation is expected to cost the state $2 million to $3 million.
Brakey said that if Diamond’s bill is approved, the federal government would relax the deadline for the state to come into compliance with Real ID.
Before the vote to table, Transportation Committee member Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, said the state should continue to resist the federal mandate and instead help Maine residents cover the costs of a federal passport card, which would be acceptable identification for boarding airliners and entering federal facilities.
“This Legislature made a stand years ago to say, ‘no.’ Our citizens’ private documents deserve to remain private, protected,” Grant said. “A database that is established by the secretary of state will in no way be secure. It is foundational to our rights as citizens to have some semblance of privacy and if we don’t hold to that, what is next?”
In related action the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee voted 8-3 to move ahead with a bill that would provide $15,000 to purchase federal passport cards for Maine veterans who have been denied access to a Veterans Administration clinic at the former Pease Air Force base. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, has already passed both the House and the Senate and will now return to the Senate for final enactment.
Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at: