Arizona to create high-tech driver licenses - East Valley Tribune: News

Arizona to create high-tech driver licenses

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2007 8:28 am | Updated: 6:12 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a deal Thursday with federal officials to create a new “technologically enhanced’’ state driver license.

The agreement with the Department of Homeland Security requires Arizona to get proof that someone is a U.S. citizen with a social security number before issuing a driver licenses.

That is on top of existing requirements for photo ID, date of birth and home address.

The new licenses would include features to make them less subject to counterfeiting. Napolitano said she hopes to have them available by the end of 2008.

Further down the road, the pact will require Arizona to create even more secure state licenses “as soon as practicable’’ that comply with the federal Real ID Act.

But Homeland Security has yet to announce what documents are acceptable to get one of those and what security features’ would be embedded in the license. One option would be biometric information about the holder.

Getting the required legislative approval for the deal could be difficult, as some lawmakers contend the Real ID Act will create a national ID card.

Napolitano said Arizonans who fear providing the government with additional documentation or don’t like security features on licenses won’t be required to obtain one: They can keep existing licenses, which cost between $10 and $25 and are good until age 65.

The new type of licenses would cost an additional $4 every time they have to be renewed, which would be every five years.

But Napolitano said existing licenses soon will no longer be accepted as proof of U.S. residency by motorists driving into this country from Mexico.

She also said that licenses which do not meet the yet-to-be-developed Real ID requirements eventually will not be accepted for federal purposes, most notably to board an aircraft. This means travelers might need a passport even for domestic flights.

Napolitano said the new licenses will help enforce Arizona’s law making it illegal for companies to knowingly hire undocumented workers because they prove both identification and citizenship.

State Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, said she is “livid’’ that Napolitano promised to have Arizona comply with the Real ID Act and promised to fight the plan despite its voluntary nature.

“The federal government’s going to get all this information,’’ Johnson said.

Laura Keehner, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said there will not be a national database. Instead, she said, each state will keep its own records containing the additional information.

Keehner said she did not know if personal information such as an individual’s physical features, fingerprints or even retinal scans would be collected, encoded on the card or possibly put onto a computer chip built into the license.

Johnson said it was wrong of Napolitano to sign the agreement with those issues unresolved.

“Who is the governor to say what we are going to do here in Arizona?’’ she said. “She’s only one branch of our state government.’’

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