Real ID driver’s license passes

Worries that Louisiana residents could one day need a passport to board domestic airline flights persuaded lawmakers Thursday to repeal a 6-year-old law.

The state law kept Louisiana from issuing driver’s licenses that comply with security mandates required under the federal Real ID law.

With an 85-2 vote and no debate, the House gave final passage to a bill that allows people to get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license if they want one.

House Bill 907 heads next to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk. His State Police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, helped push the bill.

In 2016, people will need a license or state identification card that is compliant with Real ID to board all domestic flights. Without one, they will be required to produce a passport or other federal identification card or could be subject to intense questioning from security.

Louisiana’s lawmakers enacted a ban in 2008 on meeting the federal requirements because of privacy concerns, but many of the most heavily criticized security features have since been dropped.

HB907, sponsored by state Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, gives drivers a choice between receiving a license that has the security features to comply with the Real ID or one that does not. Real ID licenses will get a gold star indicating fulfillment of the standards.

“I want to make sure my constituents have every possible choice,” St. Germain said during committee testimony on the bill.

Opponents say allowing compliance with Real ID will put the federal government in charge of Louisiana’s driver’s license. But supporters say they put protections in the bill to keep that from happening.

Edmonson has said Louisiana only needs to scan into a database and store the birth certificates of people with drivers’ licenses and ID cards to comply with federal law. The rest of the security features required of the licenses and ID cards already are in place.

Before making a decision, a person seeking a state-issued ID card or a driver’s license will get a description of the Real ID-compliant version, including what personal information will be collected and maintained and who will have access to the data.

The state database that contains the scanned documents for Real ID-compliant licenses can’t be linked to other databases, and anyone who illegally accesses or releases the data will face up to six months in jail for each offense.

Under the bill, any new requirements added by federal officials for Real ID compliance will need further approval from state lawmakers before they could be used in Louisiana.

The Real ID Act is a federal law, passed in 2005, to create national identification standards after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.