Governor John E. Baldacci today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking that Maine residents not be penalized under the federal REAL ID Act.

Homeland Security has set a March 31 deadline for states to request a waiver that would give them more time to move toward compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005.

Maine law prohibits the state from complying with the act. In his letter to DHS, Governor Baldacci asked that Maine's residents not be penalized by the rules set to take effect on May 11.

"On May 11, the Department of Homeland Security could impose new travel restrictions on residents of states that have not received a waiver, but no state will be in compliance on that date. Maine's driver's license will be the same whether we receive the waiver or not. The same is true for every other state that has requested and received a waiver," Governor Baldacci said. "We have been working diligently to improve our driver's license, and we will continue those efforts regardless of REAL ID."

DHS has threatened to impose new travel restrictions on residents of states that do not seek the waiver and to deny them access to federal buildings.

In 2007, Maine passed a law that prohibits compliance with REAL ID.

"REAL ID will impose a massive financial burden on Maine at a time when our resources are extremely limited by a slowing national economy," Governor Baldacci said. "In addition, I share the concerns of other Maine lawmakers that REAL ID could put in jeopardy the personal information of every Maine resident. The federal law raises real privacy issues."

In his letter, Governor Baldacci outlined the numerous steps that have been taken to improve State issued credentials. Of 18 individual benchmarks for REAL ID, Maine meets or partially meets 10.

Maine has moved to central distribution of credentials, digital photograph retention, machine readable technology, and tamper-proof security features. Maine has also revised its statutes to mandate collection of a Social Security Number (SSN) or absent a SSN, written proof of ineligibility.

Maine does not accept for identification affirmation any document issued by a foreign government that has passed its expiration date; and pending legislation awaiting final action would establish a requirement that only Maine residents may obtain Maine credentials, and that those applicants would need to present documentary evidence of their physical Maine address in order to obtain a Maine credential.

The Legislature has requested that the Secretary of State work with the federal government to develop an authoritative list of documents acceptable to determine lawful presence, in anticipation of further legislative action on this policy area next year. Also, we are examining the Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) under Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

"Maine has made tremendous progress in improving our driver's license, and our State has made it clear that we do not support REAL ID," Governor Baldacci said. "But I also felt it was necessary to send this letter to the Department of Homeland Security. I do not want to see Maine people used as a political pawn in a dispute between federal and state authorities. Come May 11, Mainers should be able to travel without extra security or unnecessary delays. To target them would be unfair."

Governor Baldacci also said today that there is an alternative to REAL ID.

"Maine Rep. Tom Allen has submitted bipartisan legislation that would repeal REAL ID and replace it with a process that will improve national security without placing an enormous financial burden on states or compromising civil liberties," Governor Baldacci said. "There is an alternative to the path we're on. I hope Congress and the President will take it."

Rep. Allen's bill, H.R. 1117, re-establishes a negotiated rulemaking process involving all stakeholders to