AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- By January of 2018, Maine driver’s licenses may not be accepted as ID to board an airplane, because Maine doesn’t comply with the federal Real ID law. The Legislature is being asked to fix the problem, but there are still warnings that’ private information of citizens could be at risk if we do comply. The Legislature now has to decide whether to act, but it could be a tough one for some lawmakers.
They all know there will be real consequences if Maine continues to not comply with Real ID. But there are also continuing worries about privacy and the risk of identity theft if personal information, including birth certificates, is stored in a state database.
Those privacy concerns are what made the Legislature vote ten years ago to not comply with Real ID. But since January, Maine licenses haven’t been allowed as ID to get into military bases and some other federal sites. Next year if nothing changes it will be airplanes.
Senator Bill Diamond is leading the effort t to finally comply with Real ID. He says the risk of disruption is too great. But Some others, including his fellow Senator Shenna Bellows...say the privacy and identity theft threats are just as real.
“And I think quite frankly it's madness for the state of Maine to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to set up what would be a treasure trove for identity thieves,” said Bellows.
But Diamond says the Department of Homeland Security has told him that in the ten years the law has been in effect, none of the states that did comply has reported those problems. Diamond told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday that some are hoping for Congress to change the law, but he doesn’t expect that will happen.
“I received a call from Congressman Poliquin last week,” said Diamond, “offering his support and saying Maine must act and not rely on federal assistance changing the law.”
Several business groups testified in support of Diamond’s Real ID bill, saying their members need to be able to travel freely for work, without worrying about whether their license will be accepted as ID. But several committee members appeared to share some of the privacy concerns.
Diamond said New Hampshire has complied with Real ID, but has an “opt out” provision, so people can voluntarily have their licenses not be acceptable to the federal government. One committee member asked for more details about that provision.
A vote on the bill has not been scheduled.