From the Sacramento Bee:
Editorial: Get ready for Real ID
Prepared to camp out at the DMV?
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 25, 2006
Story appeared in Editorials section, Page B6
At a hearing in the state Senate last week, California legislators got their first close look at how the controversial federal Real ID Act will affect the state budget and ordinary Californians. It was unsettling.
Approved by Congress last year, the Real ID Act requires states to radically change the way they issue driver's licenses if they want their residents to be able to use that document as valid identification to board airplanes, enter federal buildings, and apply for a federal job, Social Security or any other federal benefit.
State officials who have met with a working group in Washington about implementation say the law will likely be phased in over a five-year period, beginning in 2008. That means not all 24 million licensed Californians will have to turn in their driver's licenses at once. That's a big relief.
Still, applicants seeking their first license in California or trying to get the old one renewed will find the task more difficult and expensive.
At minimum, California will be forced to suspend its convenient renew-by-mail option that more than 2 million state drivers used last year. That will mean longer lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Besides presenting a birth certificate, applicants will also have to produce two documents to prove they actually live where they claim. (Federal regulators are expected to exempt most people born before 1935.)
The state's cost of implementing could go as high as $500 million, with individual license holders expected to pay more, possibly double the current $26 license fee.
When Congress approved the Real ID Act, it was billed as a necessary tool to fight global terrorism. Whether it does that is an open question. But it's clear that the new tool won't be cheap or easy to use.