Impact of Standardizing License Requirements in U.S.

Alex Chadwick talks with New York state Sen. Michael Balboni about how standardizing driver's license requirements across the nation might impact individual states. Currently, each state has its own requirements for obtaining a license, but the "real ID" movement could lead to a de facto national identification card.

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Here's the hitch in all this: Congress doesn't actually give out driver's licenses; states do. But under the current proposals, a license from any state not meeting these congressional requirements for drivers proving legal status would not be a valid ID for getting on an airplane or for many other things. New York state Senator Michael Balboni is a member of a group of state officials and industry and consumer organizations that are examining this Real ID issue.

Senator Balboni, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

State Senator MICHAEL BALBONI (New York): Thank you for having me.

CHADWICK: What do you think of this move by Congress now?

Sen. BALBONI: Well, I think there's a concern associated with the fact that the nation acted and December, the president signed a law which said, `We need a secure driver's license, but we recognize the complexities inherent in trying to make a secure driver's license with all the different things that the states have done. We're going to put together a negotiated rule-making committee, and your job is to task out the various issues and come up with a resolution by July 12th.'

Five months later, Congress comes back and says, `Well, forget all that. We're not going to do any type of rule-making; we're just simply going to mandate.' And the bill that is going to be considered by Congress either this week or next has a provision that says that within three years, these minimum standards have to be adopted by states. Well, if they're going to wait three years, why couldn't they have waited three months for the rule-making committee to do its work?

CHADWICK: So you're saying it's a lot more complicated than this piece of legislation makes it look. What are the complications? I mean, what's going to be difficult for a state here?

Sen. BALBONI: The minimum standards are not specifically spelled out in the statute. For example, it requires that driver's licenses have a physical security feature designed to prevent tampering or counterfeiting. Well, what's that? And what constitutes compliance? It won't be one playing field.

Another aspect that they talk about is the use of birth certificates. Well, that's great, but birth certificates are done differently from different states. A backwoods parish in Louisiana doesn't have the same type of infrastructure--that is, personnel and office times--as, say, a metropolitan city. So getting information about birth certificates might be more difficult.

CHADWICK: If I want to go in and get a driver's license, is it going to be more difficult for me today because of what Congress has done?

Sen. BALBONI: Well, it depends upon how your state would go about doing it because, again, they don't specify how to specifically do it. They just say it has to have these features. If your state would issue a driver's license over the counter, well, then you're going to have to wait longer, because a part of the mandate of this bill is that individual driver's licenses have to be verified through the use of immigration technology. Now you have to access federal databases on immigration information, and those databases are not as accurate and as real time as we would like them to be. So there could be very long lines associated with that type of issuance.

If you're going to make a driver's license that truly is not counterfeitable, if that's a word, then you need to make sure that you have security structures set up within the DMV operation. We've seen so many times where computer hackers have hacked into databases. And also, DMV officials have been bribed and have sold information. Well, if we make a truly secure card that is the keys to the kingdom and if that card falls into the hands of a terrorist, then they can do whatever they want to do because there'll be no longer this doubt whether that one card is actually accurate and real; they'll assume everybody's card is real. That was not considered as a part of this bill that is currently before the Congress.

CHADWICK: Michael Balboni is a state senator from New York. He represents all 50 state legislatures on the issue of valid IDs before Congress.

Senator Balboni, thanks for speaking with us on DAY TO DAY.

Sen. BALBONI: My pleasure. Thank you.

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