Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Real ID Redux

Since they decided that the Real ID Act would be a good topic of discussion this week over at The Balance of Power, I thought I would clarify some of the points I made last week regarding this (in my view) bad piece of legislation. As you may know, Congress passed this legislation, with the aim of creating a uniform standard for driver's licenses across all 50 states, as part of a military appropriations bill.

The bill is a mandate to the states to conform to standards set by the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to the states' issuance of driver's licenses. The bill prohibits any federal agency from accepting any state-issued driver's license or ID card that does not comply with the national standards. What the final standards and the licenses will look like is unclear, but getting the final product may involve multiple visits to your local DMV and lots of red tape.

As you might expect, there is a spirited debate underway as to whether this bill represents: 1) "fascism on parade," a transparent attempt by jackbooted Republicans to strip us of our privacy and freedom of movement, or; 2) a necessary homeland security measure that will only make our nation more secure--inhibiting the freedom of potential terrorists and illegal immigrants at the cost of some minor and temproary inconvenience to the citizenry, or; 3) a perhaps well-meaning attempt at greater homeland security, but one that probably puts us all at higher risk for identity theft, especially if a lot of personal information is contained on the card.

Frankly, I never get to the merits of the card when I analyze this issue, because I find the procedure used to pass it reprehensible--I don't care if it is the greatest thing since the wheel--Congress is hiding the ball from the public by tacking it on to a military appropriations bill as well as making it another unfunded mandate to the states.

I believe that, if the Congress really thinks this is a necessary homeland security measure, they ought to have the guts to make it a stand-alone piece of legislation, let the public have a detailed description of what is going to be entailed in the new licenses and what it is going to cost. I realize it is a time-honored tradition in Congress to pack bills with unrelated amendments and call in favors (or threaten retribution) in order to get them passed. Maybe it is time to break with tradition and ask our legislators to actually speak and vote their conscience. This measure passed 100-0 in the Senate, which just tells me that Democrats are going to say, "we had to vote for it, it was attached to a military appropriations bill!" while Republicans claim, "this was a bipartisan effort, not our fault!"

I don't care whose fault it is, I don't care if it's a good idea or a bad idea, Congress ought to put all the cards face up on the table for the American public to judge...and if they don't want to do that, then we really are in trouble.

"Stop The ACLU" Blogbursters

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