Lawmakers spur Real ID opposition

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alaska legislators are balking at joining the federal government's Real ID plan, and don't want to allow state dollars to be used to support the controversial identification requirements some see as an invasion of privacy.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

It's an unusually united front, with both the left and the right agreeing that the new federal rules go too far.

The Senate on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, barring the state government from spending money to create what some fear would be a national ID card.

"We don't know the exact cost, but we know it will cost millions of dollars," Wielechowski told the Senate on Monday.

His bill passed 14-4, and now goes on to the House of Representatives.

The House is scheduled to vote today on a resolution sponsored by Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, urging repeal of the federal Real ID Act.

Federal Real ID legislation would require additional proof of identification to get a driver's license, including submission of a birth certificate, which would be kept in file by Division of Motor Vehicles.

It also would create a national database, turning the new Real ID-compliant drivers licenses into national ID cards.

States that don't upgrade their driver's licenses by Dec. 31, 2009, would find their citizens could no longer use them for "federal purposes," such as boarding an airplane, crossing a border, visiting a national park or entering a federal building.

Wielechowski said Alaska had its own reasons for not wanting such restrictions, including the fact that crossing international borders or getting on a commercial airline was often necessary to get to or from Alaska.

"This is a state sovereignty issue," he said.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, was in the minority voting against the bill. He said the federal government had the authority to implement Real ID.

"It's within the federal government's rights to regulate interstate travel," he said.

Prominent Republican Coghill and House Democratic Leader Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, both oppose Real ID, indicating Coghill's resolution has a good chance of passing.

"The Real ID Act threatens personal liberties without any evidence of making our citizens and our borders any more protected from terrorism," Coghill said.

Kerttula called the federal legislation "very frightening," and said she'd support Wielechowski legislation in the House as well.

"It's another way for the government to intrude in people's lives," she said.

Wielechowski said another concern was that under Real ID, Alaskans' personal information would be accessible by computer in the Division of Motor Vehicles and other offices all around the nation.

"I think it's dangerous for all Alaskans to have their data with every state," he said.

Gov. Sarah Palin has also expressed concerns about Real ID.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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