By Martin Kidston
Two top Montana Republicans on Tuesday blasted the U.S Department of Homeland Security’s rejection of the state’s latest application to come into compliance with the REAL ID program.
Denial of the state’s requested extension continues a long-running saga between the federal agency and state leaders, who believe the federal requirement raises concerns over the collection of personal and private information.
Without compliance, however, Montanans will not be able to use their state driver’s license to board a commercial airline.
“Montanans have spoken loud and clear: We don’t want REAL ID and we don’t want the federal government infringing on our personal privacy,” said U.S Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana. “I’m going to work to pursue every legislative fix I can to safeguard Montanans’ civil liberties and personal privacy.”
The federal government, which believes that secure driver’s licenses are vital to national security, first passed the federal act in 2005 in response to domestic terrorism.
The Montana Legislature, however, voted unanimously to forbid implementation of the program in 2007. State leaders, including Gov. Steve Bullock, vowed to improve the security of state ID’s. They asked for and received an extension from Homeland Security last October to do so.
This year, however, another extension was denied. Montanans will be unable to use their driver’s license to board commercial planes after Jan. 30, 2017, without state compliance.
“Montana: Not in compliance,” the DHS website said on Tuesday. “Federal agencies and nuclear power plants may not accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and state IDs.”
Earlier this year, Daines introduced legislation to repeal the REAL ID Act of 2005. Attorney General Tim Fox, also a Republican, is pushing Congress to pass Daines’ legislation.
“Montana has emphatically rejected the invasion of personal privacy by requiring sharing of private information with the federal government, and other states, through the REAL ID Act, and I fully support that decision,” Fox stated. “I ask Congress to respect the basic rights of all Americans and support Senator Daines’ efforts to repeal this law.”