If there is one way Louisiana became prey to anti-government conspiracy theories, it was the failure of our state to issue standard driver’s licenses, compliant with the so-called Real ID requirements put in place at the federal level after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Sooner or later, national authorities will require compliant licenses for basic access to airline travel and visits to military bases and other federal buildings or facilities. That stringent rule has been delayed by the U.S. government for several years as states’ lawmakers were barraged by complaints from political fringe groups about a “federal takeover” and potential abuse of personal information.
Louisiana has adopted most of the regulations for Real ID licenses, but some of them — mostly related to identification required of first-time applicants — are not yet required.
The agitation against the new licenses is a particular concern of the political fringes that then-Gov. Bobby Jindal eagerly courted during his campaign for the presidency, so it is not that surprising that he catered to groups that oppose Real ID licenses.
Those groups continued to complain but ultimately did not persuade the Legislature: In 2014, a bill was passed allowing residents to get a compliant license or an old, noncompliant version.
Unfortunately, Jindal vetoed that bill. It was another sacrifice of Louisiana’s interests to Jindal’s political plans.
Now, a new governor is taking a more sensible position.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he would back a bill by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, to have the Office of Motor Vehicles issue compliant licenses. The bill retains the option for a driver to request a noncompliant license.
Colomb repeatedly told the committee that her Senate Bill 227 would protect the privacy of personal information. Unlike passports, the new driver’s license does not include a chip that can track where the document is presented.
“It does not know where you are,” Colomb said. “It cannot follow you.”
This bill now goes to the full Senate and then the House, but we hope lawmakers will pass it.
The option of a noncompliant license is not, perhaps, a perfect solution. Travelers standing in a long line at an airport are apt to be agitated if there’s a delay caused by someone trying to get on an airliner with a noncompliant license.
Still, it’s better than the tie-ups that would result if thousands of folks had to get passports or other official identification to fly commercial or enter a courthouse for jury duty.