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Washington governor signs legislation rejecting Real ID

[JURIST] The state of Washington emerged as another opponent to the REAL ID act Thursday, with Governor Chris Gregoire [official profile] signing state legislation [PDF] rejecting the controversial federal law. Washington is now the fifth state to pass such a measure, joining Maine [JURIST report], Arkansas, Idaho, and Montana. Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer [official profile] just signed anti-REAL ID legislation into law earlier this week. The Washington legislation passed both state houses with strong support, as legislators railed against what they considered an "unfunded mandate." The measure dictates that the state not spend money implementing the REAL ID act unless privacy and security concerns are addressed, unreasonable costs and record-keeping burdens are not placed on citizens, and the state receives federal money to put the act’s requirements into effect. Further, the bill also allows the state attorney general, with the approval of the governor, to challenge the constitutionality of the act. The Washington State Department of Licensing [official website] estimates it would cost $96.7 million over the next two years and $93.4 million in 2009-2011 to implement the REAL ID act. Washington is already developing procedures and technology to make its driver's license secure enough to act as a border-crossing document.

The REAL ID Act [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], initially drafted after the Sept. 11 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. The law is also meant to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to board aircraft or enter federal government buildings. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary], it finally passed in 2005 [JURIST report] as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill. Other state lawmakers have previously expressed concern [JURIST report] about possible problems expected to accompany the implementation of the REAL ID Act, fearing that they will not be able to comply with the law's requirements before a May 2008 deadline. In March, Homeland Security responded to these concerns by extending the deadline for compliance by 18 months [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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