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Real ID a Burden for States

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This week, we're hearing arguments for and against the law known as Real ID. President Bush signed it into law on Wednesday. It requires states to meet new standards for issuing drivers licenses. Yesterday, we heard from Mark Krikorian who is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He said it's about time there was a uniform standard for state divers licenses to keep terrorists from getting them.

Today, Cheye Calvo argues against Real ID. He thinks enforcing the law will put a huge economic burden on states. He is the transportation director of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mr. CHEYE CALVO (Transportation Director, National Conference of State Legislatures): American life is riddled with the unintended consequences of well-meaning yet ill-advised federal laws. I have another one for you. It's called Real ID. It's a new law that was attached to the Iraq supplemental spending bill without so much as a congressional hearing. Its supporters will tell you that it's all about Homeland Security and fighting terrorism, but it's really a nightmare federal mandate that threatens to overwhelm state DMVs with rigid, bureaucratic and costly rules.

Now the states agree that we need federal drivers license standards. We must ensure that people are who they say they are. In fact, state lawmakers support a bill passed by Congress in December at the request of the 9/11 Commission that mandated federal standards to be created by a panel of state and federal officials. After all, on something as complex and important as drivers license security, the American people expect their state and federal governments to work together to get it done right.

Unfortunately, Real ID dismantles this cooperative effort and instead imposes a host of prescriptive big-government mandates that will distort critical priorities, misdirect limited resources all while doing little to make us more secure. Some of these new rules may not even be technically possible. No matter, says Congress. The states now have a narrow window to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to meet these rigid mandates or else face serious consequences.

However, going forward, states understand that Real ID is now law. And just as other efforts to federalize key elements of American life, states will do what they can within reason to comply. But as you shuffle through the endless line at the DMV, preparing to suffer the unintended consequences of this ill-advised federal law and you think, `There has to be a better way,' please know there was. In fact, Congress and the president passed it before they repealed it five months later and decided instead to go in this unfortunate direction.

SIEGEL: Cheye Calvo is the transportation director of the National Conference of State Legislatures. He has a Maryland drivers license. And if you'd like to hear yesterday's commentary in favor of Real ID, you can go to our Web site, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheye Calvo