REAL ID: Only to Cost States $3.5 Billion


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new rules for REAL ID implementation today. As originally proposed the REAL ID Act of 2005 would have forced states to start issuing tamper-proof driver licenses and identify cards by May. The new regulations issued today by DHS says that the first deadline for compliance with REAL ID is Dec. 31, 2009.

However, DHS will allow states to request a waiver that would give them until May 11, 2011 at which point they would have to start issuing new driver licenses by December 1st, 2014 to everyone born after December 1,1964 (i.e., those under fifty years old). Then by December 1st, 2017 everyone born on or before December 1,1964 would have to have new licenses.

According to the new rules, "Effective May 11, 2008, Federal agencies cannot accept drivers' licenses or identification cards for official purposes, as defined herein, from States that have not been determined by DHS to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act unless a State has requested and obtained an extension of the compliance date from DHS."

Michael Chertoff, DHS Secretary said today that, "We have worked very closely with the states in terms of developing a plan that I think will be quite inexpensive, reasonable to implement and produce the results." DHS estimates that the revised rules will cost the states only $3.9 billion in implementation costs instead of the originally projected $14.6 billion. Supposedly, the new REAL ID requirements will add only $8 per new drivers license - a number I have little confidence in.

Of course, Congress has allocated about $81 million in dedicated funds so far to support implementation, and DHS promises another $280 million in general DHS funding that states can use if they so desire.

I guess a $3.5 billion unfunded mandate is better than a $14.2 billion unfunded mandate.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City