Louisiana House passes Real ID legislation offering alternative compliance _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana House of Representatives advanced Wednesday an alternative for the state to offer Real ID-compliant driver's licenses that would that make it easier for residents to take commercial flights and enter federal facilities.

Louisiana lawmakers are eyeing another way to issue identification cards that would comply with a federal security measure and make it easier for residents to take commercial flights and enter federal facilities in a few years.

But the latest proposal, which won support in the state House on Wednesday but still faces hurdles in the Senate, would require residents to obtain two separate cards — a Real ID-compliant card and a state driver’s license — if they want to both meet the federal government’s upcoming security standards and be able to legally drive in the state.

The idea is a departure from recent efforts to pass legislation that would allow Louisiana drivers the option of having their driver’s licenses meet the federal Real ID standards. Louisiana legislators two years ago voted in favor of Real ID legislation, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was sworn in on Jan. 11, has said he would sign a Real ID bill.

After nearly two hours of debate, the state House approved the amended version of House Bill 702 requiring two separate cards, after state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier, raised concerns over privacy and the federal government collecting data on driver’s licenses even for those who don’t opt-in to the Real ID terms.

“You’ve already lost your liberty right there,” he said. “The federal government is not a great steward of our privacy and private information.”

Johnson’s amendment to split the two, creating a new card that residents would need to meet the federal standards, passed in a 56-41 vote. He said he has been assured by the Louisiana Family Forum, which has opposed past Real ID efforts, that the group now supports his version of the bill.

It’s unclear how much the effort to create a second card would cost the state, as a fiscal note had not been prepared for his amendment. Louisiana residents who want the Real ID card would have to pay a second fee on top of their driver’s license costs.

The state Senate passed legislation last month that would allow residents to carry one card that would satisfy requirements for both, if they opt-in to Real ID compliance when obtaining or renewing their driver’s licenses. Senate Bill 227 is now pending action in a House committee.

The two chambers will have to reconcile their differences before Louisiana can become a Real ID-complaint state.

In 2008, the Legislature, driven by fears of government overreach and privacy violations, banned the state from complying with the federal measure.

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, every air traveler will need identification that complies with Real ID. If the state’s licenses aren’t compliant, passengers will need another form of acceptable identification, such as a passport.

Rep. Jimmy Harris, a New Orleans Democrat who authored the original version of HB702, said he didn’t think Johnson’s amendment was necessary, but Harris eventually voted in favor of the bill.

“Many of the questions and concerns (about Real ID) could have been addressed over the past eight years,” he said.

The federal Real ID Act was designed as anti-terrorism legislation and is the product of the 9/11 Commission.

Harris said he has personal connections to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that spawned the push for Real ID. He was scheduled to fly out of Newark, New Jersey, that morning, and his sister worked in the World Trade Center but was traveling outside the country on the day of the terrorist attacks. Several of her coworkers died in the attack, he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.

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