AUGUSTA – State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, closed in on a legislative victory this week with the approval of his Real ID compliance bill in the House of Representatives.
“I think the skids are pretty well greased on it,” Diamond said, expressing confidence that the bill will achieve final passage in the Legislature and be signed into law by the governor.
Diamond’s bill, LD 306, passed 115-30 in the House on Tuesday after sailing through the Senate 31-4 last week. Despite that strong support, the bill was not without opposition from both Republicans and Democrats who have concerns about privacy and costs.
As of Tuesday, and despite those concerns, both the House and Senate were expected to approve final passage of the bill. The bill would then go to the desk of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has signaled his support for the legislation.
If passed and signed into law, the legislation would set Maine on a path towards compliance with the federal Real ID law that establishes security standards for state driver’s licenses.
The bill looks to avoid a showdown with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that could mean Mainers would not be able to use a driver’s license to board airplanes starting in January 2018. Maine licenses area already no longer accepted at certain federal facilities, including military bases.
If Maine takes action with LD 306, Diamond says Homeland Security will give the state additional time to comply with the federal Real ID Law. The agency would also rollback the Maine license restrictions already in place since January at facilities such as military bases.
“They’ll drop that immediately,” Diamond said about the restrictions in place now, noting that he had spoken directly with DHS officials.
Up to this point, Maine has actively avoided implementation of the Real ID law, which Congress passed in 2005. In 2007, Maine passed its own law stating it would not comply with Real ID because of concerns about privacy and cost.
For years, DHS has given states like Maine waivers to delay implementation. That changed last year, which also changed the calculus for many Maine officials, including those who had previously opposed Real ID compliance.
One of those officials is Rep. Rich Cebra of Naples, who spoke during the House debate on Diamond’s bill. Cebra, who cosponsored LD 306 and serves on the Transportation Committee, noted that he also cosponsored the 2007 legislation that prevented Real ID compliance.
“Things changed considerably, and now we’re under the gun,” he explained on the House floor Tuesday. Cebra also noted that that the Transportation Committee’s amended version of the bill attempts to address privacy concerns.
Diamond also supported the 2007 legislation prohibiting Maine from Real ID compliance. And while his position has shifted, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has been a constant critic of the federal Real ID law and any efforts to implement it in Maine.
In an interview last week, Dunlap raised concerns about the cost of implementation – which he said could total as much as $3 million – and the additional personal information that Real ID compliance would compel the state keep on file.
“The best way for us to protect people’s information is to not have it,” Dunlap said, citing increased concerns about data breaches in today’s digital age.
If Diamond’s bill passes, the Secretary of State’s Office will be charged with bringing Maine licenses up to Real ID standards.
Most other Lakes Region legislators voted for Diamond’s Real ID bill, including Rep. Sue Austin, R-Gray; Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham; Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham; Rep. Dale Denno, D-Cumberland; Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester; Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond; Rep. Phyllis Ginzler, R-Bridgton; Rep. Lester Ordway, R-Standish.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
View of the Maine State House in Augusta.
State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.