October 28, 2013

Your papers, please

The Daily Citizen

— Georgia lawmakers generally talk a good game about smaller, less intrusive government and favoring state and local control over federal rules. But their actions rarely live up to their words.

Last year, for instance, the state decided that if you want to get or renew a driver’s license you have to actually visit a Department of Driver Services office and bring at least three different forms of ID. Even if you’ve been driving in the state for 40 years, you’ll have to drive down to the driver services office and show them your papers, originals, please, no copies.

Officials say you’ll only have to do this once. After you get a “secure” license, they promise it will be good for the rest of your life. But this marked a big step backwards for the state, which had only a few years earlier taken a number of steps to make the process of renewing a license less painful, including increasing the time that a license was valid to 10 years for most drivers. Only government would consider adding more paperwork and longer waiting times to be progress.

Georgia took these steps to comply with the federal REAL ID law, a 2005 bill that aims to turn state driver’s licenses into a national ID card. The federal government threatened to bar those using driver’s licenses from states that don’t adopt the REAL ID standards from using them as ID to enter federal courthouses or board commercial aircraft.

The legislatures in 14 states told the federal government what they thought of its threats by passing laws barring licensing officials from adopting the REAL ID standards. Georgia obviously was not one of them.

In fact, the federal Department of Homeland Security has declared just 20 states to be in “material compliance” with the law. Georgia is one of those states. That leaves 30 states that are not in compliance.

The feds originally ordered the states to get in line on REAL ID by 2008 or face the penalties. When it became clear that the states weren’t going to follow those orders the feds extended the deadline and have kept extending it.

What are the odds that the federal government will ever actually bar the citizens of even one state from entering a courthouse or flying on a plane? What are the odds that it will bar the citizens of 30 states from doing so?

Georgia lawmakers had a chance to stand up to federal overreach and to refuse to add to the rules and red tape their citizens face. Unlike the lawmakers in many other states, they did not.