working on two fronts to create federal standards for driver’s licenses.
A bill that would
create those standards – HR 418 – is now moving through the U.S. Senate after
passing the House Feb.
10 by a vote of 261-161.
But at the same
time, officials at the Department of Transportation have posted a notice on the
Federal Register saying they intend to negotiate with the states to create
standards much like those the bill would create.
However, in this
case – unlike most DOT rulemaking procedures – the agency will not create a
proposed rule and ask for comment, according to information in the Register.
Instead, it is asking various state and federal agencies to comment on who
should be on a committee to negotiate the rules, and what those people should
The rule will be
based on a section of the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004. Section
7212 of that law calls for national driver’s license standards, including
determining what documents would be required to prove a person’s identity;
verifying those documents’ authenticity; and what information should be
required on every driver’s license regardless of the issuing state. That
information could include name, age, address, gender, a digital photo and the
In addition, the
agency wants the proposed rules to include a requirement that states confiscate
a driver’s license if the card’s security features – or any other part of the
card – were tampered with.
However, the law
also places a limitation on federal requirements. The feds cannot interfere
with states’ power to determine who is or is not eligible to receive a driver’s
license. And they cannot mandate a particular design.
The measure now
moving through Congress – HR 418 – is called the Real ID Act. Introduced by
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, it would prevent states from issuing licenses
unless the license contained specific information – name, date of birth,
gender, a digital photo and other required elements.
But it contains
another feature that the DOT’s call for negotiated standards does not. The bill
would disallow anyone from receiving a license if they could not prove they
were in the country legally. According to the DOT notice, the 9/11 Commission
Act says that if DOT sets the standards, it cannot tell states who can and
cannot receive a license.
The bill also
contains other measures, including a section designed “to prevent terrorists
from abusing the asylum laws of the United States,” and another that would make
it easier for the federal government to complete border fences and other
barriers, such as one near San Diego.
HR 418 is now
before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Los Angeles Times reported that it has the support of both the
White House and the Republican leadership in Congress.
In the Federal
Register notice, DOT officials said if HR 418 passes, it would end the agency’s