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Lawmakers oppose national ID by opposing funds for it

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2008

A state lawmaker said Thursday that the state should not be funding a national ID card.

"If the federal government ... wishes to create a society that really is big brother, we don't want to pay for it," Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

His bill would prohibit state employees from spending money to comply with the federal Real ID Act. The law, which was passed in 2005, calls for a standardized set of requirements that states would have to meet to issue driver's licenses. It also would require states to maintain a database with their driver's information and to share it with other states.

Supporters say those efforts will hinder terrorists.

Wielechowski said the real threat was to law-abiding individuals, whose movements or financial transactions could be tracked by the government, and their personal information could one day be available to other countries and private companies if Alaska were to comply with the Real ID Act. Wielechowski said the federal requirements could quickly grow to encompass other personal data, such as that from retinal scans or DNA samples, and could even lead to a national gun registry.

"It is the beginning of a surveillance society," Wielechowski said. "It's very easy to see where this goes."

The Real ID Act calls for all citizens to eventually have a federally approved ID card. Without one, citizens could not board planes or enter federal buildings.

There have been 21 legislative bodies that have passed anti-Real ID legislation, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Alaska's bill would be similar to those in six states, including Washington and Montana, that explicitly prohibit compliance with the Real ID act.

Gov. Sarah Palin said at a later news conference that she had "great concerns" about the Real ID Act.

"Anytime you are talking about American citizens' privacy, fundamentally I have concerns," Palin said.

Wielechowski said there was a broad alliance of opponents to the Real ID Act representing all points on the political spectrum. And several private citizens, including one man who said a national ID was a sign of the end times mentioned in the Bible, told the committee to support Wielechowski's bill.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, said concerns over privacy right violations were overblown and some opponents to the Real ID act were trying to "protect" unlawful immigrants.

"I hear a lot of fear mongering about (the Real ID Act)," Bunde said.

The head of the committee, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, predicted that some form of an anti-Real ID bill would ultimately pass into law this session and lawmakers needed to realize that it was an issue that wouldn't go away on its own.

"The federal government ... will do everything they can to force it down our throats," McGuire said. "At the end of the day, you're going to see Alaska push hard against this and hopefully we can make some headway."

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

• Contact reporterAlan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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