Baldacci vetoes move away from Real ID

Posted June 03, 2009, at 9:34 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci on Wednesday vetoed a bill that sought to undo portions of a state law that brought the state toward compliance with the Real ID anti-terrorism law.

The veto was sustained almost immediately by a Senate vote of 28-7.

The vetoed bill would have eliminated a requirement that people show they are in the country legally to get a driver’s license. It also sought to bar further study of facial recognition technology.

In issuing his veto, Baldacci said the bill would have let driver’s licenses and ID cards be issued to people who are knowingly breaking immigration law.

“Maine’s current law is fair and reasonable,” Baldacci wrote in his veto message to the Legislature. He said 46 states, including every state in New England, have such legal presence requirements for their state-issued credentials.

Before last year’s action to increase the security of state credentials, Maine was targeted by people who couldn’t legally get a driver’s license elsewhere, Baldacci said. People were brought in, sometimes by the vanload, to get licenses, he said.

“With the protections put in place last year, such activities are much more difficult,” Baldacci said.

The federal Real ID Act of 2005 was unpopular with Maine lawmakers, who passed a law forbidding the state to comply with it. Within a week of Maine’s action, lawmakers in Georgia, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington state also balked at Real ID.

But Maine lawmakers grudgingly succumbed to pressure to adopt Real ID requirements after the federal government suggested that Maine residents would be put through extra security when boarding planes or entering federal facilities.

In addition to passing legislation requiring legal presence, the Legislature last year enacted a law that requires applicants for Maine licenses and IDs to show evidence of state residency. That law stands.

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