U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have introduced legislation to repeal a law that mandates all driver’s licenses conform to federal standards.
The move by Tester and Daines comes two months after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed Montana officials the state would not get an extension to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005, which requires state identification cards to meet certain security standards. Montana had received two one-year extensions before, but federal officials told Gov. Steve Bullock it would not receive a third because the state had not made any progress toward complying with the standards.
Because of Montana’s refusal to comply with the federal law, starting Jan. 30, state-issued driver’s licenses will no longer be enough to access military bases, nuclear power plants and other federal facilities. Starting in January 2018, Montanans will be unable to board an airplane using a state-issued driver’s license.
Critics of the Real ID regulations – including Tester, Daines, Bullock, Rep. Ryan Zinke and Attorney General Tim Fox – have said the law is overreaching and an invasion of privacy. In 2007, the state Legislature unanimously voted against complying with the federal law.
“The Real ID Act infringes on Montanans’ privacy and civil liberties and is not what Montanans want,” Daines stated in a press release on Thursday. “As Montana’s Senator, I will ensure their voices are heard and will work to scrap this intrusive law.”
But proponents of the law say Montana politicians are pushing “myths” and that it is unlikely the law will be repealed. Currently, more than two-dozen states are in compliance with the law and others are on their way to meeting the standards. Montana is one of eight states that remain noncompliant. But in a statement Thursday, Tester said he believes it can be repealed.
“Montanans value their independence and privacy, and Real ID is a violation of those fundamental freedoms,” Tester said. “We must work toward a bipartisan, secure solution that protects our civil liberties and ensures Montana families can travel without putting their personal information at risk.”
Tester, Daines and Zinke have all tried but failed to repeal the law in the past.
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