State legislators gave final approval Wednesday to a ban on Arizona participating in the federal government's Real ID program. The near-unanimous vote on HB2677 was driven by lawmakers' concerns the new type of driver's license, mandated three years ago by Congress, would become a de facto national identification card.
There also are fears the information about license holders, including Social Security numbers and copies of documents they provided to get the licenses in the first place, will wind up in some nationally linked database that could be "hacked" by identity thieves.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes Real ID, says Arizona would become the 10th state to pass a law prohibiting compliance with the federal mandate. But that is contingent on Gov. Janet Napolitano going along with the bill the Senate approved last month on a 21-7 margin. Press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer would not say Wednesday whether the governor will sign the bill when it reaches her desk.
Only Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, was in opposition. But Konopnicki said his vote was a protest: He could not get a hearing on his proposal to have Arizona create an optional "technologically enhanced" driver's license, one the federal government would recognize but without some of the drawbacks of Real ID.
The 2005 federal law directs Homeland Security to create new standards for states to use when issuing driver's licenses. That was a direct outgrowth of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when some of the hijackers carried state driver's licenses that were obtained fraudulently.
The idea is both to make it harder for people to acquire state licenses with false names as well as ensure the licenses themselves are tamper resistant.
The original deadline for implementing Real ID was last month. But when states refused to go along, Homeland Security agreed to delay that deadline until at least the end of 2009 for any state that sought an extension.
Napolitano said her biggest concern was not privacy but what she called an "unfunded mandate" that could cost states billions of dollars. But she did sign an agreement with Homeland Security in August to create what she calls a "3-in-1" license.
It could be used not only as a driver's license but would also be accepted by the federal government as proof of citizenship, meaning it could be used in lieu of a passport. That also would mean Arizona employers could accept it as proof someone is legally entitled to work in this country.
The governor, in an effort to sell the idea, said it would be optional: Residents could choose to keep their current licenses rather than purchase the more expensive ones.
But Napolitano needs legislative approval to create a new type of license to deliver on her deal with Homeland Security - the approval that Konopnicki was seeking to obtain with his measure, HB2762.
But Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, quashed Konopnicki's bill - and the governor's plan - by refusing to bring it to a vote in the House Transportation Committee, which he chairs.
Among the concerns is that Konopnicki's bill allowed the 3-in-1 licenses to be embedded with a radio frequency identification computer chip that could be read by nearby scanners.