When the Real ID legislation passed, I objected to it – because as a former governor, I hate nothing more than an unfunded mandate where someone up here in Washington comes up with a big idea, makes it a law and sends a bill down to the governors without providing funding for it. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has estimated that the Real ID program, which imposes minimum federal standards for state driver’s licenses, will cost states $4 billion, but Congress so far has only appropriated $90 million. We could have figured this out if the Senate had had a hearing about Real ID before we passed it, but instead it was just stuck in a must-pass appropriations bill for the troops in Iraq, and the Senate voted for it.

I plan to offer an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2009 that will block DHS from forcing states to comply with the Real ID program until we have sent money to the states to pay for it. Right now there are 46 states that have received a three-year waiver so that they don’t have to have this all ready by the May 2008 deadline. But that leaves 4 states – Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina – that don’t have waivers, and they are in a game of chicken with the federal government. If those four states don’t apply for a waiver by the May deadline, then DHS could say that having a driver’s license from one of those states isn’t sufficient identification to board an airplane.

I think what we should do is send the name and phone number of every Senator and Congressman who voted for Real ID down to all the people in these four states, and when they are not allowed to get on an airplane because they don’t have the right ID card, they can call us and tell us what they think about it. The states shouldn’t be required to implement the Real ID program until Congress demonstrates that it is willing to reimburse them for the cost of the mandate, and my amendment will aim to halt this program until Congress does just that.