La. House panel advances Real ID legislation

A Louisiana House committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would make state driver’s licenses compliant with the federal Real ID standards that soon will be necessary to board airplanes in this country.

The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works approved House Bill 907, which would put Louisiana in compliance with post-9/11 federal rules mandating that states issue identification cards and driver’s licenses whose authenticity is verifiable.

Louisiana had previously rejected the federal mandate.

Opponents of the controversial legislation vowed to fight the bill in the full House and in the state Senate, if necessary.

There are 39 separate points the federal government requires for Real ID. Louisiana will achieve 37 of those standards by July, said Stephen F. Campbell, commissioner of the state Office of Motor Vehicles.

The two remaining issues stem from 2008 state laws forbidding Louisiana to fall in line with the federal standard, including the required gold star in the upper right corner of the icon that signifies compliance with federal Real ID standards, Campbell said.

The remaining requirement is procedures to scan documents and photograph the bearer immediately upon entering a driver’s license bureau.

HB907 would give the person a choice whether to supply the documents and follow the procedures necessary to receive a Real ID. “You don’t have to; you can if you want,” said state Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part and sponsor of HB907.

Sandy McDade, who testified on behalf of Louisiana Power Coalition and the Eagle Forum, said after the hearing that her groups would continue to try to block the legislation as it makes its way through the process.

“Did you see citizens in there testifying for this? There’s no clamor for this,” said McDade, who argues the Real ID allows government to gather considerable information and consolidate it in one location without any protections on its use in the future.

McDade testified she was concerned about the star in the corner of a Real ID-compliant license that would allow authorities to quickly tell if the identification is authentic.

“Are we talking ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ or is it the Star of David?” she asked, saying later she was alluding to some governments’ use of easily discernible icons as a way to segregate and focus on segments of society, such as Nazi Germany did with Jews in the 1930s using a yellow Star of David as an identifier.

State Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, asked McDade if she believed that a state could demand photo identification in order to vote.

She answered yes because she had heard of widespread voter fraud.

“Wow,” responded state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, in apparent disbelief. Landry is a former superintendent of State Police.

Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of State Police and in charge of the driver’s license bureaus, says the photos on the licenses will be digital and not the biometric kind that can be easily downloaded for use in facial recognition software. “

We don’t have equipment for that,” Edmonson said, adding that Louisiana has been using digital photographs since 1996 and will continue to do so.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.