AUGUSTA, Maine — Portions of a law passed begrudgingly last year to bring Maine into compliance with the federal Real ID anti-terrorism law would be repealed under a bill that was reviewed Friday by a legislative committee.
But its prospects are questionable given the Baldacci administration’s opposition.
The bill before the Transportation Committee seeks to eliminate what the sponsor called the most offensive portions of the law that was passed last spring under pressure from the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Sen. Dennis Damon’s bill would remove a requirement that Maine driver’s licenses and state IDs be issued only to those who prove they are legally present in the United States. It also would prohibit the use of biometric technology, such as retinal scans, facial recognition or fingerprint technology, in the production or storing of license information.
The bill also would drop a call for more study into facial recognition or fingerprint technology.
Damon, D-Trenton, said he wants to improve a law that’s “overly intrusive, a taking away of some of my privacy and some of my rights as a United States citizen.”
Maine passed a law last year to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID law or face consequences such as not having Maine driver’s licenses recognized at airports or federal buildings. Despite widespread skepticism over the law in the Legislature, which had passed a law barring the state from complying with Real ID, lawmakers finally buckled under federal pressure and passed the compliance law.
Supporters of Damon’s repeal bill said Friday the Real ID requirements haven’t made the state safer, and have made life more difficult for some immigrants, including some who are in the country legally but have difficulty providing documentation.
The Maine Civil Liberties Union’s Shenna Bellows said the law “drives immigrants into the shadows” and violates 14th Amendment due process and equal protection guarantees. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and Maine Council of Churches also support Damon’s repeal bill.
But Ann Jordan, Gov. John Baldacci’s public safety commissioner, said the bill would set back efforts to protect the public and ensure the integrity of the driver’s license system.
Passage of Damon’s bill also would jeopardize Maine’s agreement with the federal government that allows Mainers to use their legally secured licenses when boarding planes and trains, dealing with Social Security and other federal agencies, entering federal courts, securing student loans or applying for mortgages, Jordan said.
Jordan said a provision to stop state motor vehicle officials from gathering Social Security numbers would frustrate the state’s efforts to collect child support debts.
Maine has a separate law requiring proof of state residency to get a license.