With a deadline looming, the Louisiana State Police will request that federal authorities allow people to continue using the state’s driver’s licenses as identification to enter U.S. courthouses, military bases and some other federal offices.
The request is being drafted and will be ready in the next couple of days, said Col. Michael Edmonson, the State Police superintendent. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s order to enforce the REAL ID goes into effect on Oct. 10.
Air travelers can still use Louisiana licenses as identification to board planes until sometime in 2016, according to the federal agency.
Louisiana is one of four states and American Samoa that have failed to comply with the REAL ID Act that Congress passed as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 14 years ago. Compliance with the standards has been controversial in some sectors, which complain that it smacks of a national identification system as well as being too expensive and too intrusive.
Edmonson said Louisiana’s system for issuing driver’s licenses meets all but a couple of the federal standards.
But the most important parts — verifying the birth certificates and other documentation needed for a license most use as personal identification — already is being met by the state’s Office of Motor Vehicles, which he oversees, Edmonson said.
“I’m extremely comfortable with the integrity of our system,” he said.
Louisiana does not photograph each person as they enter an office to seek a drivers’ license nor scan the documents immediately, as required under the federal standards. Edmonson said Louisiana officials first determine what the customer is seeking and whether the documentation is sufficient.
“We’re not compliant; I get that,” Edmonson said. “But as far as the backbone of that section and what it requires, we do those things, and we’re capable of doing those things.”
Without a REAL ID-compliant license or state identification card, people will have to produce a passport or other federal identification card or could be subject to intense questioning that can be confirmed using publicly available databases. However, if the person’s identity cannot be verified, they will not be allowed to pass the screening checkpoint.
Just what will happen at federal courthouses in Louisiana is unclear.
“At this point, we have not gotten any guidance on that from our headquarters yet. I know that it is probably coming,” said Randy Breckwoldt, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal at the U.S. District Courthouse in Baton Rouge.
Homeland Security reports that about 80 percent of all U.S. drivers hold licenses that meet the REAL ID Act’s standards or are from states that received extensions. The current round of exemptions expires on Oct. 10.
The agency granted extensions to jurisdictions that have made progress implementing the unmet standards and plans to meet the requirements.
Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York join Louisiana as the four states not in compliance.
The Legislature in 2008 banned the state from meeting the federal requirements, citing privacy concerns and security features that have since been dropped.
Legislators in 2014 approved a bill that repealed the ban and allowed drivers to choose whether to get a license that was compliant.
Jindal, however, vetoed the measure, objecting “unnecessary federal oversight of our driver’s licenses.” He noted that the Eagle Forum, the Louisiana Family Forum and Tea Party of Louisiana were against REAL ID because “it will compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty.”
Jindal spokesman Doug Cain said in a prepared statement that the Office of Motor Vehicles is continuing to address the administration’s concerns with Homeland Security.
“We must ensure that there are no unintended and potentially far-reaching consequences of compliance for Louisiana’s citizens,” he said.
Edmonson, who was appointed to his position by Jindal and backed the vetoed legislation, said he would push for its passage again next year with a new governor and new Legislature.
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