The Department of Homeland Security "granted" 2009 compliance extensions to all states, but the fate of Real ID still hangs in the balance.
The March 31 deadline for states to apply for an extension to the federal Real ID mandate-one that critics say amounts to the creation of a national ID card-has come and gone.
Now every state in the nation is in compliance with the mandate, whether they intended to be or not.
After a skirmish with the state of Maine in the late hours of the looming deadline-Maine, along with a handful of other states, declined to comply with the act, much less ask for an extension-the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced April 2 that all jurisdictions in the United States had complied with the initial Real ID requirements.
The extensions, according to the DHS, ensure that every state will be in technical compliance of the Real ID Act by the May 11 deadline for compliance.
For those states not in compliance by May 11, DHS warned, driver's licenses and ID cards will no longer be accepted from citizens looking to board airplanes or enter state buildings.
The "extensions" mean that states, some of which have stated they have no intention of implementing Real ID, have until Dec. 31, 2009, to implement at least part of Real ID. In real terms that means states must upgrade the security of their systems to include a check for the lawful status of the ID holder, according to the DHS Web site.
States have until 2014 to develop a new driver's license system that will include the ability to store electronic identification documentation, two-dimensional machine-readable bar-code technology, and a database chock-full of citizens' electronic documents and other information that must be linked to databases in all other states in the nation as well as accessible to the federal government.
The issues raised by objecting states range from privacy concerns to budgetary impact to cries of federalism.
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat and former rancher, claimed federalist tendencies for Real ID during a National Public Radio show in March. "This is the federal government telling a state that you must do something and you must pay for it," Schweitzer said. "Well, thanks for playing-Montana is not in."
When asked if he was worried that Montana's residents wouldn't be able to board planes if he didn't give in to the DHS, Schweitzer responded, "This is another bluff by some bureaucrats in D.C."
Schweitzer may be on to something. Ten states passed bills opposing Real ID in 2007 and a dozen more states have introduced relevant legislation in 2008. So far in 2008 six states-Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington and Montana-have opted out of Real ID by statute, according to Jeremy Meadows, senior policy director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a group that represents the 50 state legislatures and their staffs. "And many states are still in session," Meadows said.