Louisiana Makes Move Toward Real ID Implementation

Despite objections that drivers' Social Security numbers would be shared nationally, a Senate panel approved a bill that would allow Louisiana motorists to get a license that meets federal travel and other ID rules.

by Will Sentell, The Advocate / March 23, 2016
Unlike his predecessor, Gov. John Bel Edwards has backed the proposed Real ID bill. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

(TNS) — Reopening a volatile topic, a Senate panel Tuesday approved a bill that would allow Louisiana motorists to get a driver’s license that meets federal travel and other identification rules, and this time it is backed by the governor.

A similar measure cleared the Legislature in 2014 but was vetoed by then Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The latest proposal, Senate Bill 227, is backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

After nearly two hours of discussion, including complaints that Social Security numbers of Louisiana motorists would be shared nationally, the bill won approval in the Senate Transportation Committee without objection.

It next faces action in the full Senate and, if approved there, would face debate in the state House.

Under the measure, motorists could request a driver’s license that meets what are known as Real ID requirements spelled out by a 2005 federal law.

The measure was recommended by the 9/11 Commission in 2004 as a way to ensure that driver’s license applicants and others are who they say they are.

Those who opt not to apply for a Real ID because of privacy or other concerns could seek a traditional driver’s license.

Backers said a Real ID driver’s license will ensure that residents have easy access to commercial airlines, federal courthouses and military bases.

Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, repeatedly told the committee that personal privacy will be protected and, unlike passports, does not include a chip.

“It does not know where you are,” Colomb said of a Real ID compliant driver’s license. “It cannot follow you.”

Critics repeatedly expressed skepticism that officials of the Office of Motor Vehicles, which issues licenses, would not share sensitive documents with their counterparts nationally.

“This is being shared with every Office of Motor Vehicles,” said Lisa Arceri, who lives in Metairie and criticized the bill.

As of January, 23 states had met all the rules of the Real ID Act.

Louisiana is one of more than two dozen that got an extension from the federal government to meet the requirements.

By Jan. 22, 2018, domestic commercial airline passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is not Real ID compliant would have to show an alternative form of identification, such as a passport.

The new driver’s license is also aimed at ensuring access to federal courthouses and military bases.

The committee added an amendment aimed at soothing concerns that even motorists who renew a traditional driver’s license are required to produce birth certificates and other documents that are then scanned by OMV officials.

“It is just adding some extra comfort,” said Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Baton Rouge, sponsor of the amendment.

Arceri said she and her son made seven trips to the Office of Motor Vehicles for his driver’s license because she declined to turn over certain documents.

OMV officials said that, under current rules, first-time driver’s license applicants submit birth certificates and other documents that are typically scanned.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said that issue may be addressed during Senate floor debate.

Colomb’s bill would require OMV offices to post signs that spell out what the license does, what information is collected and kept, who has access to the data and how it will be utilized.

©2016 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.