"The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID." -- Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka (pictured)

The Real ID Act of 2005 was designed to improve security of state-issued driver licenses and ID cards and bring them up to a uniform federal standard. However, states objected to provisions of the act, and its estimated $12 billion cost, so a number of states passed laws prohibiting its implementation, and things ground to a halt as all states asked for, or were given, extensions. Janet Napolitano, as governor of Arizona, objected to Real ID and later, as secretary of Homeland Security, asked for some viable options.

Yesterday, Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced just such an option. The bipartisan "Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification" Act of 2009, or Pass ID Act, was met with generally positive reactions from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the National Governors Association (NGA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

"This legislation will strengthen national security by offering real solutions within a framework that is more workable for states," said the NCSL in a release."The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID. NCSL urges Congress to continue to work with NCSL and its members as this legislation moves through the congressional process and to take all possible efforts to ensure state costs for implementation of the Real ID, and any corrective legislation, be fully funded by the federal government."

The NGA said in a release that PASS ID Act recommendations supported by the NGA included:

  • Reducing costs by providing greater flexibility for states to meet federal requirements by eliminating fees associated with the use of existing databases and eliminating unnecessary requirements
  • Eliminating the need to develop costly new data systems that raise significant privacy and cost concerns without increasing security
  • Strengthening privacy protections by requiring procedures to prevent unauthorized access or sharing of information
  • Allowing states to better use existing timetables to renew compliant drivers' licenses and identification cards.

"The PASS ID Act does exactly what the 9/11 Commission recommended," said Akaka, "it sets strong security standards for the issuance of identification cards and driver's licenses. What it does not do is go far beyond that recommendation by requiring the collection of Americans' personal information and storing it in a centralized repository accessible by any state DMV. REAL ID called for all states to store copies of individuals' documents such as birth certificates and their photographs in databases and to provide all other state departments of motor vehicles with access to that information. REAL ID did not require any privacy protection of these state databases, which would contain massive amounts of personal information. These databases could provide one-stop shopping for identity thieves and the backbone for a national identification database. PASS ID addresses those privacy and costs concerns while providing the ID security called for by the 9/11 commission."

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government