AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Maine Legislature may take several months to decide what to do about the Real ID issue, but a few lawmakers are hoping for a quick solution to one piece of the problem.
The federal government is cracking down on Maine and four other states that have not complied with the 2005 Real ID law, and as of January, a Maine license was no longer valid ID to enter military bases and some other federal sites.
That caught about 500 Maine veteran by surprise.
Those veterans, from communities in southern Maine, found themselves cut off from their VA clinic. They had been using the clinic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is located inside the Pease National Guard Base.
Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston and a Marine Corps veteran, said he decided Maine needed to do something to help them. Golden enlisted the support of Rep. Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock, who is also a military veteran. They are now pushing to pass a special bill to help those particular veterans.
“I think it’s our duty and we have to follow through on [that],” said Farrin in a telephone interview.
Since Legislative action on a bill to completely fix the Real ID issue could still be months away, Golden put in a bill that would have Maine buy federal passport cards for the 500 veterans. Those cards are accepted as ID to enter military bases.
Golden and Farrin said the cards cost $30 each, making the total cost about $15,000. The bill received unanimous support from the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, and the legislators are hoping to have it passed by the full Legislature next week.
Golden said its specific to those particular veterans, and believe it’s the right thing for lawmakers and the state to do.
“[T]he Legislature made a decision in 2007 not to comply with Real ID, so I think we are completely responsible," he said. "And we should take steps to correct this problem for these veterans now.”
Farrin said there are some other groups currently having problems because of the Real ID license issue, but hopes lawmakers will deal with those concerns separately and not slow down action on the bill to help the veterans.
He said the passport card arrangement would end if the Legislature votes to comply with the Real ID law because the problem would then be eliminated.