Baldacci endorses Pass ID

Posted July 21, 2009, at 8:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Just back from the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, Gov. John Baldacci said Tuesday he is endorsing the Pass ID proposal of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“We need to strengthen our driver’s licenses, and we need to require a lawful presence requirement,” he said. “It eliminates the fees currently assessed to states to use existing federal databases. It eliminates all the data-sharing mandates. It adds flexibility to the states.”

Baldacci said the Pass ID legislation is designed to replace the controversial Real ID law that Maine and other states have opposed. While governor of Arizona, Napolitano opposed Real ID but said the new proposal fixes the problems she saw in the Real ID law.

“Pass ID provides a strong yet flexible framework for states to implement secure identification,” she said. “I am proud to join our nation’s governors in supporting Pass ID — a cost-effective, common-sense solution that balances critical security requirements with the input and practical needs of state governments.”

Baldacci said he is joining a bipartisan group of governors calling on Congress to act quickly to pass the legislation, citing the bill’s strong privacy protection provisions, reduced costs and greater flexibility for states.

“We will have legislation ready for January if Congress acts before then,” he said. “And I hope they do act quickly.”

But, the bill has opposition.

In Maine, both Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and the Maine Civil Liberties Union are opposing the Pass ID proposal.

Dunlap is responsible for implementing the state driver’s licensing law and said the federal law needs considerable changes to make it workable.

“There is no federal definition of legal presence,” he said. “This is a huge concern for me, as an administrator who would have to enforce the law.”

Dunlap said while Maine has defined the term in state law and spelled out what documents may be used as proof of lawful presence, that is not part of the proposed federal law. He is also critical of the federal government not addressing its own problems in issuing identification documents.

“There has to be a thorough review of how the State Department grants visas,” he said, “because we in the states will use a visa as proof of legal presence.”

Dunlap said the 9-11 Commission report faulted the visa process, pointing out that the 9-11 terrorists entered the United States in the first place using falsely obtained visas from the State Department.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said she is “disappointed, but not surprised” that the governor has endorsed legislation that she said is just as bad as Real ID.

“Pass ID is Real ID under pseudonym,” she said. “The two proposals are largely the same.”

Bellows said that in many ways the new proposal is worse than the existing law. She questioned whether the section allowing radio frequency ID chips in ID cards to be used in credentials has been thought through with many reports of the data from similar cards being stolen by identity thieves.

“That and the creation of all of these central databases are an identity thief’s dream,” she said. “All of that private information in one place is scary.”

Baldacci said he is convinced the final legislation will have the adequate safeguards in place to protect privacy while still improving national security. He said the Pass ID proposal has strong, bipartisan support among the governors.

“This is about strengthening our driver’s licenses,” he said, “There have been abuses here in Maine, and we can’t allow that to happen. This is a good proposal.”

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