Once upon a time in an earlier era, when I renewed over the Internet, the Office of Motor Vehicles sent me a sticker to paste onto my expired driver’s license.
Over time, the sticker started to curl off. That was never really an issue — except for when I passed through security in out-of-state airports. More than once, the jury-rigged government seal of approval prompted long looks from federal transportation officials, and made me wonder if some day the my state’s system might cause me to miss a flight. As I recall, it was a pretty stressful feeling.
I’ve thought of these times periodically while following the long, long debate of whether Louisiana should issue licenses in compliance with the federal Real ID program.
The Legislature is once again considering upgrading state licenses to meet federal anti-terrorism standards and allow them to be used as identification to board a plane. This is an entirely logical service to expect state government to provide for its citizens.
And indeed, in 2014 lawmakers passed a bill to do just that, only to have it vetoed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. As was his habit, Jindal sacrificed reasonable accommodation to most people’s needs to satisfy concerns by the arch-conservative constituencies he was courting in his presidential run. In issuing the veto, Jindal said that Real ID would provide unnecessary federal oversight and could “compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty.” He cited opposition by The Eagle Forum, Louisiana Family Forum and the Tea Party of Louisiana.
We give up certain things to get onto an airplane, in the name of gaining some assurance that the people around us can’t take advantage of the situation and do us harm. Taking off our shoes, submitting to intrusive physical screenings, and allowing the federal government to verify who we are? Big-government conspiracy theories aside, that plane has long since left the airport, as the recent terrorist at the Brussels airport reminded us.
The feds extended the deadline for compliance until January, 2018, so nobody from Louisiana has been blocked from boarding so far. Still, Louisiana’s resistance has caused confusion among flyers who wonder whether they need to carry a passport just to fly domestically.
The good news is that, with Jindal gone, the Legislature is back on the case. This week, a Senate committee passed a bill to bring Louisiana into compliance, and Jindal’s more pragmatically-minded successor, Gov. John Bel Edwards, supports the move.
It’s about time. State officials, and we, are facing all sorts of major challenges, beginning with but not at all limited to a badly out-of-whack budget. It’s not too much to expect them to at least dispatch with the easy stuff — and to not make air travel any more stressful than it already is.
‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.