Diamond bill would make Maine comply with federal ID standards

Posted: February 01, 2017 | Senator Diamond, Transportation
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Maine must take action to protect citizens’ freedom of travel, not wait for Congress

AUGUSTA — Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, stressed Wednesday that Maine must comply with federal ID standards to avoid immense inconvenience for Maine people and businesses.

As of January 30, federal facilities such as the Veterans Administration are no longer accepting Maine driver’s licenses or identification cards as legitimate forms of ID. That’s  because Maine for over 10 years has failed to comply with the identification standards approved by Congress in 2005 as a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report. Even more troubling, next year, Maine IDs will no longer be accepted by the TSA, which will prevent Mainers from boarding commercial planes.

Sen. Diamond has sponsored a bill — LD 306, “An Act to Require State Compliance with Federal Real ID Guidelines” — that would cause Maine to begin complying with Real ID so that Mainers can go about their business unimpeded.

“Mainers deserve the same right to travel, unimpeded, the same way as anyone else,” said Sen. Diamond. “We cannot allow Maine veterans to be denied access to hospitals, Maine business people to be denied from federal property and Maine citizens to be kept from boarding planes.”

In 2007, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting the Secretary of State from complying with Real ID. Opponents of the new regulation had philosophical objections to the new safeguards. For several years, the situation was OK, if not perfect. Maine received waivers from the federal government, essentially protecting Mainers from the repercussions of noncompliance with federal law.

Now, though, those waivers are being denied. The federal government is making itself very clear: If Maine doesn’t come into compliance, Mainers will pay the price. Sen. Diamond’s bill would repeal the prohibition against compliance.

On Tuesday, Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree co-sponsored a bill to provide relief to residents of Maine and the handful of other states that are not making efforts to comply with federal law. Sen. Diamond commended the Congresswoman for making moves to protect Mainers, but said the stakes are too high for the Maine Legislature to wait.

“I sincerely hope that Rep. Pingree’s bill passes Congress, but given the explosive nature of politics in Washington and gridlock in Congress stretching back nearly a decade, Maine cannot wait for relief from D.C.,” said Sen. Diamond. “Maine lawmakers have the power to correct this problem, and it’s our responsibility to do so on behalf of all our constituents whose freedom will be restricted if we do not.”