State wins delay of 'Real ID' driver's license program
Published 4:20 pm, Thursday, March 10, 2011
Connecticut and other states had their wishes granted last week when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delayed the May launch of a controversial new driver's licensing initiative until January 2013.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles, fearing neither it nor the public was prepared to participate in the Real ID program this spring, earlier had asked for an extension until October.
Real ID is a 2005 anti-terrorism measure creating a national standard for driver's licenses that requires motorists present a passport or birth certificate at the time of renewal. Implementation has already been delayed twice at the federal level.
Non-compliant licenses will not meet federal standards and could be turned away at airports and some federal buildings. The Connecticut DMV, with federal funding, has been preparing to launch the new system for the past few years. Last month, the department acknowledged it wanted more time to work out any kinks and to launch a publicity blitz.
DMV spokesman William Seymour said Connecticut DMV still wants to launch Real ID in October because, at a rate of 33,500 license renewals per month, it will be six years before every driver in the state is compliant.
A spokesman for Homeland Security did not return a request for comment but in February indicated the department was reviewing its options as May drew closer.
The National Association of Governors Friday praised Homeland Security's move but argued Real ID continues to present "significant operation and fiscal challenges to states."
"Governors have long said that Real ID in its current form is unworkable," read the statement. "That has not changed. Extending the compliance deadline allows states and the federal government more time to find solutions that work."
Fearing potential costs and also concerned about issues of privacy, about two dozen states have refused to participate.
Connecticut lawmakers in 2009 briefly debated legislation, sponsored by recently retired state Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, to opt out of Real ID.
But the proposal never made it out of the Legislature's Transportation Committee.
State Rep. Tony Guerrera, a committee co-chairman, said last Friday that he is pleased by the additional time.
"I supported the idea of moving forward but also being cautious how we moved forward," Guerrera said. "I just didn't want to throw something out there that didn't work. I was very concerned about that."