Here’s an idea, Louisiana Legislature: Why not take all your constituents who just want to be able to flash their driver’s licenses to board a plane, the way they do now, and force them to carry a second ID card? And while you’re at it, how about you charge them extra for the privilege?
Don’t even know what it’ll cost? Who cares? At least the fringiest voters will be satisfied that the federal government has been put in its place.
That, as it stands now, is how the state House proposes to comply with anti-terrorism regulations requiring residents to show an ID that meets new federal standards, known as Real ID, in order to fly.
Making Louisiana driver’s licenses comport with federal law should be a no-brainer, but, instead, it’s become a twisting, turning saga rife with conspiracy theories about government overreach, even spying.
That all appeared to be behind us after Bobby Jindal, who vetoed a previous bill, left office. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has a lot less patience for big-government alarmism, supports bringing Louisiana up to speed, getting the whole thing over with and focusing on more important matters, such as the horrific budget situation.
Not so fast.
The Senate easily passed a bill to comply with Real ID, but this week a similar bill was hijacked on the House floor by archconservatives who insisted that, even with long-since negotiated safeguards and an easy opt-out provision, allowing willing Louisianians to get a Real ID-compliant license would infringe on their privacy rights.
The amended version, passed at the insistence of state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, over the eye-rolls of its supporters, mandates that the state instead issue a second card, at an additional cost, for such purposes. Johnson’s main complaint was that the government would collect some data about those who don’t want to participate.
“You’ve already lost your liberty right there,” said Johnson, who is actively courting the religious right as he campaigns for Louisiana’s 4th District congressional seat.
To back up his case, Johnson assured lawmakers that the Louisiana Family Forum, which bills itself as “your voice for traditional families” and says its mission is to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family” is on board. Jindal, too, had cited the group’s opposition to Real ID in his 2014 veto message.
Just what biblical principle is at stake here is beyond me. Same goes for justifying why the state should make the vast majority of people who just want to have functional identification, rather than the relatively few who take issue with the process, jump through extra hoops.
As a state representative and former State Police superintendent, Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said, “If we want to talk about a people’s rights, I want a REAL ID, and I should be able to get one.”
Seriously, is allowing the government to verify the identities of air passengers any more objectionable than taking off our shoes and submitting to intrusive physical screenings? Sure, it’s a pain, just like so many aspects of air travel these days. But we as a country have long-since decided to make certain sacrifices in the name of safety, and this one seems pretty basic.
Despite his doubts about the final version, Landry voted for it. So did bill author Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, even though he, too, said he found the changes unnecessary.
Most House members went along, as well, on the apparent theory that it was better to keep the idea alive in some form than to kill it.
Now that the House and Senate have passed opposing versions of Real ID, they’ll have to reconcile the differences if they want to get a bill to Edwards.
If they can’t, the feds have granted reluctant states such as Louisiana until 2020 to bring their driver’s licenses into compliance.
The way things are going, the state might actually need that long to get what should be an easy policy decision right.