Friday, March 24, 2017

Sen. Diamond introduces Real ID fix to guarantee Mainers’ travel rights

AUGUSTA - Legislation by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would bring Maine into compliance with federal ID standards; ending burdensome new enforcement activities that have restricted Mainers’ ability to travel freely. 

The bill - LD 306, “An Act to Require State Compliance with Federal Real ID Guidelines”  - was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

“The reason for this bill is simple: Maine has flouted federal law for more than a decade and now, the
chickens are coming home to roost. Maine veterans are being kept from their doctors. Maine businesses and citizens are being barred from federal property and soon, Mainers will be unable to board planes,” said Sen. Diamond. “We must enact this law immediately to protect our constituents’ rights to travel, and to avoid an impending bureaucratic nightmare for all Maine citizens.”

“Hoping these changes will just go away will not help Mainers already being negatively impacted,” said Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, House chair of the Transportation Committee. “Forty-five states have at least started to comply with Real ID. Maine needs to get moving before veterans, military personnel, and our families face further consequences of our inaction.”

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 are no longer seen as legitimate by the federal government. Because of this new enforcement action, Mainers are unable to use their state-issued IDs to enter federal facilities. Maine veterans have been barred from entering Veterans Administration hospitals. Maine companies and workers that do business with the U.S. government have been barred from access to federal building. Firefighters and police officers have been stymied in efforts to obtain federal certifications. Next year, the TSA will no longer accept Maine IDs, preventing Mainers from boarding even domestic flights unless they obtain a costly and time-consuming passport. 

Sen. Diamond’s bill has earned the support of the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and leadership from both parties in the House and Senate. Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Congressman Bruce Poliquin have also urged the state to take action to become compliant with Real ID. 

“This bill has earned broad, bipartisan support because elected officials from both parties know how our constituents will feel if we do nothing to address the very real problem of noncompliance,” said Sen. Diamond. “They send us to Augusta to come up with solutions to the problems Mainers face. In this case, the solution is simple.”

AAA Northern New England, Associated Building Contractors of Maine, Maine Motor Transport Association and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters all testified in support of LD 306. The Transportation Committee will make its recommendation regarding LD 306 to the full Legislature in the coming weeks. The bill will then face votes in the House and Senate.

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