Maine gets ‘Real’

Earlier this spring, Gov. Paul LePage signed into law LD 306 to bring Maine into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. The federal government implemented REAL ID requirements under the auspices of Homeland Security in 2005, with several states, like Maine, balking at this intrusion.

The reality is that our failure to comply with changing security standards and relying on old ID steps left Mainers of all stripes less likely to be able to fly commercially and enter federal buildings to do business. It also prevented veterans from accessing needed services.

LD 306 tells the federal government that Maine will become compliant with REAL ID before the October 2020 deadline and requests that the feds provide continuing variances for using Maine-issued IDs as the secretary of state, Matt Dunlap, works to create an ID system that meets the new security standards imposed by REAL ID. The existing (and final) waiver issued June 2017, plus plans in place by the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, targets July 2019 as the completion date to have all Maine drivers operating with a compliant REAL ID driver’s license. Operators who need a REAL ID driver’s license before this date can apply to the BMV for a license renewal ahead of their current expiration date.

Maine fought the implementation of REAL ID with a law in 2007 prohibiting the secretary of state from complying with the federal initiative. Granting temporary waivers during the interim, the federal government said no more in the fall of 2015, telling Maine and other states that failure to comply with REAL ID would result in banned travel for residents and access difficulties to some federal facilities.

For Maine residents who are reluctant to participate in REAL ID or who don’t have or need a driver’s license, there are ID options. A federally issued passport will gain you access to all commercial air travel, in-country and out, while the Transportation Security Administration website lists other alternative ID options.

REAL ID isn’t perfect, but it is an improvement over previous standards. Resulting from the 9/11 Commission and evidence that terrorists plied our ID system to gain access for air travel illegally, Sen. Susan Collins and others helped create the REAL ID system in hopes of avoiding the horror of 9/11 again. While funding has been a state issue since the beginning, security provided by an enhanced, uniform ID system is the ultimate goal for all. Compliance has a cost. It’s a lesser cost than noncompliance, however.

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