Oregon’s Quest for Secure Driver’s Licenses
For over a decade, we’ve been engaged in a battle for a secure driver’s license in Oregon. Much of the drama has been self-inflicted and it’s about time we get with the program and move on.
It started in 2005 when Congress passed, and President Bush signed the Real ID act, which calls for a more secure driver’s license. We don’t have a national ID card, so state-issued driver’s licenses are accepted by the federal government as identification when boarding a plane or entering a federal building.
States have different standards, and so Congress, in response to the 9/11 Commission, set uniform, secure, standards for states to apply. Driven by costs and other considerations, states are in various levels of compliance. For years, Homeland Security has been granting waivers to states, including Oregon, if they make progress. Now, the gig is up.
In 2007, Governor Kulongoski issued an executive order mandating comprehensive and meaningful identification to be issued a driver’s license, which brought Oregon many steps closer to compliance. This is why you have to practically bring your file cabinet down to the DMV to renew your driver’s license.
The main shortfall from full compliance with Real ID is that the DMV does not permanently retain an image of the documentation you provide. In eight years, when you have to renew again, you’ll have to bring the file cabinet back down to the DMV. Indeed, in 2009, the Legislature passed a law which forbids ODOT from expending any resources to comply with the Real ID act.
As the Kulongoski executive order made it harder for persons not legally in the country to get drivers licenses, a solution was sought in creating a “driver card” for those who could not prove legal status in the US. It passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber in a front porch ceremony on May 1, 2013. Since it did not have an emergency clause, it could be challenged by a citizens’ referendum, and it was. In an embarrassment to the legislative establishment, enough signatures were gathered (many by me) and it was put to the people in the form of Measure 88 in 2014. It was repealed by a 2:1 margin and a majority in 35 of Oregon’s 36 counties.
So, as our waiver runs out, I and Senator Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) have separately introduced bills in the House and the Senate to repeal the prohibition on ODOT and allow the agency to comply with Real ID. This makes even more sense in light of the fact that the DMV has embarked on a $90 million software upgrade, and this could easily be included. Another bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) creates a new, “Star ID” which complies with Real ID but leaves in place the current driver’s license as a less secure – and I think open to fraud — option.
Let’s not mess this up. Let’s have one Oregon Driver’s License, compliant with Real ID, and quit making me take my file cabinet down to the DMV each time I have to renew.
State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is on the board of directors of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and wants to make boarding a plane easier and more secure.