With the adjournment of the state legislature scheduled for July 10, lawmakers are in a flurry to finish up the work of the session.
Oregon is closing in on approving legislation which would effectively authorize the Department of Transportation to fully comply with the requirements of the federal Real ID Act of 2005 when issuing Oregon driver licenses, driver permits and Oregon identification cards. Oregon Senate Bill 374 (SB 374), has passed the Senate by a 28-2 vote and is currently in the House of Representatives awaiting further action, referred back to the Joint Ways and Means Committee by that body.
In a conversation with Central Oregon's Representative, Gene Whisnant, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, he indicated he is not aware of any major opposition to the bill in the House. He further indicated bills were being assigned to Ways and Means in great numbers and that they were working through them non-stop. He told us he's hopeful this bill would be worked and passed out of Ways and Means and back to the House for passage before adjournment.
Adjournment of the Legislature is scheduled for July 10, so the question is: will the bill make it through and become law—and second, why does it matter?
A step back in time provides some context. In 2005, four years after 9-11, Congress passed the Real ID Act aimed largely at bringing some uniformity to the one process each state utilizes to provide identification for its residents—driver licenses and identification cards. The federal law was enacted rather hurriedly, and imposed heavy requirements for compliance with this new law. The intent was to obtain compliance by all states and territories within three years. However, the process became complicated and extensions were granted to states over the succeeding years, including Oregon. The Department of Homeland Security implemented a schedule of enforcement in 2013, with Oct. 1, 2020, being the final date of implementation.
Initially, Oregon moved toward compliance with the passage of legislation in 2008 requiring proof of citizenship or legal presence in the U.S., as well as providing a Social Security number or proof of ineligibility for a Social Security number, to establish eligibility for an Oregon driver license, driver permit or identification card. Prior to this, proof of residency was the primary requirement. During the 2009 session, the Oregon Legislature put a halt to further efforts to come into compliance with the federal Real ID Act until sufficient federal funds were allocated to cover the estimated costs of further compliance, as well as state implementation of security measures to protect the privacy of personal information used to prove eligibility.
Now, Oregon is poised to set in motion full compliance with this federal law. Compliance is not required—however, there are consequences for a state's residents if a state is non-compliant. Essentially, those residents will no longer be able to use their state identification for federal identity purposes. This comes into play when trying to access a secure federal facility such as a federal courthouse, military base or nuclear plant, and more importantly to the ordinary person, when trying to board a domestic commercial flight. If Oregon is deemed non-compliant, the Transportation Safety Administration, will stop accepting Oregon IDs for boarding planes.
Oregon has had three extensions for coming into compliance—the current one, with a grace period, ended July 10, 2010, with the result being that beginning Jan. 22, 2018, Oregon IDs will no longer be accepted for federal identity purposes. This could wreak havoc at airports in Oregon as Oregonians attempt to board flights. The hope is that DHS will allow a further extension with passage of SB 374.
There has been consistent opposition to compliance with Real ID for years, beyond the financial burden, which at this point is estimated at $579,023. There have been concerns with privacy issues, including sharing information and data gathered in obtaining a Real ID. There is also concern that this is a march to a National ID. And there are the concerns with the burdens the process places on Oregon's residents. Proponents point out that SB 374 specifically addresses issues of privacy and security. They also point out that the bill presents an option, not a mandate—a person can opt to obtain a non-Real ID compliant license or ID as provided under current law.
Local immigration attorney Dan Larsson pointed out that Oregon already tightened the rules for a license or ID back in 2008, adding that other provisions of Real ID may create issues for some, such as certain identity verification documents. He also pointed to the existence of optional documents for addressing federal identity purposes, such as a passport or one of the numerous documents meeting TSA identification requirements. Interestingly, on the issue of creating a National ID, attorney Larsson pointed out that this would create uniformity in many arenas where identification is required for a variety of reasons from security to employment.
The bottom line is that if passed, SB 374 will move Oregon toward the option of providing Real ID to the residents of the state—good, bad or otherwise.
Judy Stiegler is an attorney, a former Oregon House representative and teaches political science at Central Oregon Community College.