State gets REAL ID extension

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AUGUSTA — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided the state with an extension to comply with the federal REAL ID law, meaning that Maine driver’s licenses are once again valid forms of identification to enter federal facilities. 

The move was first welcomed by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in a statement on June 14 and confirmed June 15 by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

“The Department of Homeland Security notified the Department of the Secretary of State today that DHS has granted the State’s request for an extension until Oct. 10, 2017,” read a press release from the Secretary of State’s Office. “With this extension, Maine licenses and IDs are once again acceptable identification for access to military bases, nuclear power plants and other federal facilities.” 

The extension was expected after the Maine Legislature passed a law in April authored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, that requires the Secretary of State’s Office to implement REAL ID by July 2019. 

“I’m extremely pleased that DHS has followed through on their promise to me that if we passed my bill they would lift the restrictions,” Diamond said when reached for comment. “My law will become effective in late September so Oct. 10 is just fine. Big victory for Maine people.” 

The Real ID Act is a federal law passed by Congress in 2005 that sets security standards for state driver’s licenses. Until this spring, Maine had not moved to implement the Real ID law. The state Legislature even went a step further in 2007 by establishing in statute that Maine would not comply with it because of concerns about privacy and cost.

For years, that wasn’t much of an issue for Maine license holders because the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the Real ID law, has given states like Maine waivers to delay implementation. That all changed in January of this year, when DHS stepped up enforcement for the four states – including Maine – that were non-compliant with REAL ID. 

Diamond’s bill to jumpstart REAL ID compliance received strong bi-partisan support in both the Maine House of Representatives and Senate, and was signed by Gov. Paul LePage on April 28. 

Starting in January 2018, driver’s licenses from non-complaint states or states without a waiver will no longer be accepted at airports. While Maine’s current waiver only goes through Oct. 10, the Secretary of State’s Office expects to have a renewed waiver at that time as they continue to work on implementation. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

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