Friday, October 27, 2017

Maine IDs will remain valid for domestic flights this January

Passage of Sen. Diamond’s Real ID compliance bill halts action by federal government, TSA

An official with the US Department of Homeland Security has alerted state officials that the federal government will not bring enforcement action against the State of Maine for noncompliance with federal ID standards, thanks to legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and enacted by the Legislature earlier this year.

Had the legislation, LD 306, not passed, a Maine driver’s license or ID card would no longer have been considered valid by the federal government. In January, the federal government had planned to stop accepting state IDs, leaving Mainers without a valid US Passport or other federal identification unable to board domestic flights.

“Mainers need to know that their current drivers licenses and state ID cards are valid forms of identification, and will continue to be until the state adopts the new security standards dictated by the law we enacted this year,” said Sen. Diamond. “Mainers should have no trouble boarding planes, entering federal facilities or proving their identity to public safety officials.”

Some news outlets are still erroneously reporting that Mainers will need a passport to board a plane in January. But that’s not the case. Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke has granted Maine a waiver through October 10, 2018, to implement the new Real ID law without any enforcement action against the state by the federal government.

“These days, we need to be more careful than ever with information we find online, and have to be vigilant to the facts,” said Sen. Diamond. “While inaction would have caused a real logistical nightmare for Maine families, the Legislature acted to avoid such a scenario. Mainers should be able to go about their business, no questions asked.”

BACKGROUND: Ten years ago, Maine passed a law prohibiting the Secretary of State’s Office from complying with more stringent identification provisions of the federal Real ID Act, enacted by Congress in 2005 following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Over the past decade, Maine received waivers from the federal government, essentially protecting Mainers from the repercussions of noncompliance with federal law. In 2016, however, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied Maine’s waiver application.

As a result of Maine’s noncompliance, Maine driver’s licenses and ID cards were no longer seen as legitimate by the federal government. Because of this new enforcement action, Mainers were unable to use their state-issued IDs to enter federal facilities. Maine veterans were barred from entering Veterans Administration hospitals. Maine companies and workers that do business with the U.S. government were barred from access to federal building. Firefighters and police officers had been stymied in efforts to obtain federal certifications.

LD 306, “An Act to Require State Compliance with Federal Real ID Guidelines,” was enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor in April 2017, ending the short-term crisis and setting Maine on a path toward compliance with Real ID.

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