A Londonderry state representative is the primary sponsor of a bill that would facilitate the transition to REAL ID driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards for New Hampshire.
Rep. Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, is sponsoring HB 1616 in the New Hampshire legislature.
Packard said that under current law, any American citizen who wants to board commercial airlines or enter Federal buildings or nuclear power plants must show a REAL ID card or present a passport. Packard said in a phone interview last week, “This affects probably close to 700,000 of our citizens who do not have passports.”
Packard explained that REAL ID came out of the government’s concern after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“They decided that the states should have secure driver’s licenses and secure forms of identification,” he said. A decision was made to have states implement three security features in their licenses and non-driver IDs. The security features are a photo, Social Security number and proof of residence, and those featuring all three are REAL ID compliant.
Currently, Packard said, an applicant can have their photo and Social Security number deleted from the system after their license or ID card has been processed. Under REAL ID, he said, they would agree to leave the two items in the system.
In New Hampshire 3 percent of applicants ask for their photo to be deleted and 8 to 9 percent ask for their Social Security numbers to be deleted. That leaves 97 percent who are fine with having their photo in the system, and 90 percent on board with having their Social Security number in the system, he said.
The REAL ID Act was established in 2005 as an Act of Congress modifying Federal law pertaining to security authentication and issuance procedures for state driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards. The law sets forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security defines “official purposes” as presenting state driver’s licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering Federal buildings and nuclear power plants, although the law gives the Secretary the unlimited authority to require a “federal identification” for any other purposes that the Secretary shall determine.
Components of the REAL ID Act include the following:
• Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.
• Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
• Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
• Introducing rules covering “delivery bonds,” which are similar to bail bonds but used for aliens who have been released pending hearing.
• Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity.
• Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders.
The act was planned to be implemented in four phases. Three apply to areas that affect relatively few U.S. citizens, including Department of Homeland Security headquarters, nuclear power plants and restricted and semi-restricted Federal facilities.
Phase 4 applies to boarding Federally regulated commercial aircraft. On Jan. 8 of this year, Homeland Security issued a revised implementation schedule, stating that by Jan. 22, 2018, “passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight.” Starting Oct. 1, 2020 “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.”
As of January 2016, 23 states or territories are compliant, 27 have been granted extensions, and six are noncompliant.
New Hampshire has been under a waiver from REAL ID for several years, Packard said, and that’s because of a “tremendous amount” of push-back originating in 2006-07. At that time, he said, the then-Legislature was reluctant to participate in REAL ID because it feared that residents’ information would go into Federal data bases. But that has since been clarified, according to Packard.
“There will be no Federal data bases, no Federal access,” he said. “This will not be a ‘national ID card,’ as people feared. It’s issued by the state.”
If New Hampshire or any other state is not REAL ID-compliant by January of 2018, passengers will be subject to an extensive screening process before boarding a commercial flight, entering a Federal building or nuclear power plant, Packard said. The citizens affected will have to spend $25 to $30 million on passports, a “severe inconvenience,” he said.
Packard’s bill will not “give” applicants a REAL ID-compliant license, but will allow applicants to opt into the three security measures. It would be strictly an opt-in measure, he said, and not an opt-out.
If his legislation passes, the Department of Motor Vehicles would set up a protocol, Packard said.
His bill has passed the House and is currently under review in the Senate, Packard said. No hearing date has been set. However, he said, he thinks that due to the opt-in nature, the bill has a good chance of passing the Senate.
“We are giving people the option,” he said. “If you’re flying on a plane and you don’t want to carry a passport, this would be the way to go.”