March 8, 2006 By Chad Vander Veen
In a little more than two years, the Real ID Act takes effect, and much of the sweeping new law remains undefined and ambiguous. In addition, portions of the act that are well defined pose a significant challenge to state governments.
The act was passed by Congress in spring 2005, and inflicts federal regulations on the design, issuance and management of state drivers' licenses. The Real ID Act will turn a state license, for all practical purposes, into a federal ID card. When all unknowns are added, complying with the legislation becomes even more onerous.
Such worries, however, are not stopping Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who's charging ahead despite the potential hidden obstacles. Land said getting her state ready means communicating the changes to all Michigan citizens. "We are trying to prepare the public with the basic concept and a message of, 'At a minimum, you will need to locate your birth certificate,'" she said. "We are spreading this message via our 154 branch offices, our Web site and the media. We have been talking about this with community, and legislative, congressional and industry leaders across the state."
Michigan is also represented on the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators' Real ID Act committee, and Land's staff participates in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) meetings designed to keep the states appraised of the DHS's progress, and provide a mechanism for feedback.
Land is taking a leadership role in Real ID compliance -- she recently proposed a dual-purpose driver's license. "Requirements for a Real ID compliant driver's license are very similar to the documentation necessary to obtain a passport -- a requirement of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Therefore I am proposing eliminating the need for a passport by using a compliant driver's license as an acceptable document for gaining re-entry into Michigan. If the DHS agrees with my proposal, I think Michigan and all states bordering Canada will benefit. Our economies depend on our ability to secure our borders without hampering commerce."
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