A decade-old Maine law is restricting Mainers’ ability to come and go as they please without new, burdensome and unnecessary requirements.

It’s making it harder for veterans to access their doctors. It’s making it harder for those who do business with the federal government, such as delivery drivers, to do their jobs and make a living. It’s making it harder for firefighters and police officers to obtain federal certifications. And soon, it will make it harder for all Mainers to board airplanes.

All of this because of a decision Maine made to flout federal law and refuse to comply with the identification standards established by Congress through the Real ID Act.

For years, Maine’s stance was tenable because the federal government issued waivers and extensions that allowed Maine and other states to stay in noncompliance. But today, Maine is one of just five states that refuses to comply. Now the federal government is dropping the hammer.

Starting a month ago, Maine IDs are no longer accepted as legitimate forms of identification by most federal facilities. Next year, Maine IDs will no longer be accepted by the TSA, meaning that Maine driver’s licenses and state IDs will no longer be accepted as identification when boarding commercial flights in the United States.

These restrictions and inconveniences on Mainers’ freedom of travel cannot stand. Most everyone in Augusta agrees that something must be done. But there’s disagreement on how to do it.

In an op-ed column published recently in the Bangor Daily News, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap – who oversees the state’s ID program – said Maine shouldn’t have to comply because compliance would require additional security measures at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, including the use of facial recognition technology and the scanning of documents such as birth certificates, which would be held by the state.

Secretary Dunlap referred to these measures as “Orwellian.” He says Mainers cannot allow the state to maintain records of “intimate” details, such as where and when a person was born. The secretary puts the onus of restoring Mainers’ freedoms on Congress. I say that’s folly.

Congress has demonstrated its total inability to conduct even the most basic of business in recent years. Partisan politics have gridlocked the House and Senate, preventing even the most routine of actions. But even if Congress weren’t dysfunctional, why would the delegations from 45 states vote to allow Maine to remain noncompliant when no such exceptions were made for their own constituents?

The idea of Congress repealing Real ID after more than a decade, when the overwhelming majority of states have already complied or taken steps toward compliance, is also a pipe dream.

So if Congress can’t fix this problem, who can?

The Maine Legislature has all the tools it needs to take action and restore Mainers’ right to come and go as they please. I have submitted a bill that would lift the prohibition on compliance and direct the secretary of state to take necessary steps to bring Maine into compliance. My discussions with the assistant secretary of homeland security in Washington have been productive and they are ready and willing to assist Maine in any way they can if we take the necessary action by passing my bill.

There will, of course, be a spirited debate on the bill. But while lawmakers pontificate about the merits and flaws of Real ID, Mainers will continue to suffer. The stakes today are too high. Mainers should not be expected to tolerate restrictions on their right to travel, enter military bases and conduct their businesses just because lawmakers in Augusta want to have philosophical debates. It’s incumbent on all of us to do the right thing to protect our constituents’ freedoms.

The sky-is-falling predictions about privacy breaches that dominated this conversation a decade ago have failed to become reality in states that have adopted Real ID standards.

Besides, the world has changed. These days, consumers willingly give information about themselves to private corporations like Facebook every single day. We post photos of ourselves, our families and our friends online for the world to see.

Of course, we must remain diligent to ensure security measures are in place to protect sensitive information. But Real ID is asking for identifying information, and won’t ask Mainers to give up their bank account numbers, their email passwords or access to their cellphone cameras.

Complying with Real ID will not result in catastrophic invasions of privacy. But it will ensure that Mainers have the same right to come and go as they please as residents of other states. To me and to the many Mainers who have contacted me, the choice is easy – it’s high time for some good Maine common sense.

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