Informer: Battle over driver’s licenses result of 2005 law

By By Andrew Perzo / American Press

I heard that Louisiana driver’s licenses will not be valid identification for flying on airlines starting in 2013. I heard that U.S. passports will be required.

Supposedly something about Louisiana not signing in on making driver’s licenses a valid federal ID.

Can you shed some light on this?


The Real ID Act of 2005 requires

identifying documents to meet certain standards if the bearers are to

use them for any “official

purpose” — e.g., “accessing Federal facilities, boarding federally

regulated commercial aircraft, entering nuclear power plants.”

Additionally, the law requires states to follow certain procedures in issuing licenses and identification cards.

Several states, including Louisiana,

have opposed implementation of the law, citing financial, technical,

constitutional and

privacy issues. As a result, the federal government has repeatedly

pushed back the date for compliance with the law. The latest

deadline is Jan. 15.

A state law passed in 2008 prohibits the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles from implementing the law. So, unless the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security says otherwise, come mid-January federal officials will no longer honor Louisiana driver’s

licenses as valid identification.

“Individuals possessing licenses and

identification documents issued by non-compliant States would either

have to undergo

additional screening or provide alternative documents to pass

through security at airports and to access Federal facilities,”

reads the department’s final rule on license standards, published

in March 2011.

“DHS estimates that over 90 percent of the documents shown for identity purposes for boarding Federally regulated commercial

aircraft and for accessing Federal facilities are driver’s licenses or other State-issued identity documents.

“Requiring individuals to obtain

alternative or additional identity documents or to undergo additional

screening would result

in significant disruptions to commercial airline travel and to the

ability of the public to conduct business with the Federal


The head of Louisiana’s OMV has asked the federal government to take stock of the state’s progress toward compliance and to

recognize that officials here must contend with the 2008 legal prohibition.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said she won’t extend the deadline again.

A Real ID Act timeline compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures:

May 11, 2005 — President George W.

Bush signs into law an emergency supplemental bill that includes the

Real ID Act, which

“repeals the provisions of a December 2004 law … that established a

negotiated rule making process to create federal standards

for driver’s licenses and instead directly imposes prescriptive

federal driver’s license standards,” reads the NCSL’s website.

March 1, 2007 — The U.S. Department

of Homeland Security issues draft regulations for implementation of the

Real ID Act. “DHS

estimated the cost of implementation at $23.1 billion over 10

years, of which $10 billion to $14 billion are costs to states,”

reads the site.

Jan. 11, 2008 — The U.S. Department

of Homeland Security releases final regulations on implementing the law.

“The release

of the final regulations precedes the May 11, 2008 deadline by a

mere 120 days,” reads the website. “DHS estimates the costs

for states to implement the Real ID will not exceed $3.9 billion.”

April 2008 — “All 56 U.S.

jurisdictions had received an initial extension from the Secretary of

the U.S. Department of Homeland

Security. The initial extension is valid until Dec. 31, 2009,”

reads the NCSL site. “States have the option of filing ...

for a second extension to May 10, 2011, if the state can

demonstrate it is in material compliance with 18 interim benchmarks.”

December 2009 — Officials extend the material compliance deadline; the full compliance deadline, May 10, 2011, remains the


March 4, 2011— Napolitano postpones full compliance deadline until Jan. 15, 2013.


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The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email