CONCORD, N.H. (Feb. 22, 2016) – An attempt to repeal a New Hampshire law prohibiting state cooperation with the federal REAL ID Act was successfully blocked by approval of an amendment in the state House last week.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 and Pres. G.W. Bush signed it into law. The act essentially mandates a national ID system that states must implement. In 2007, the New Hampshire legislature passed a law prohibiting participation in a national ID program.

Under the federal law, all states were supposed to be in compliance by 2009. But seven years later, more than half the states in the Union still have not complied with REAL ID. Of the 28 not in compliance, 21 have extension waivers until October 2016. As 2015 came to a close, the feds were threatening to prohibit the use of REAL ID non-compliant driver’s licenses as ID at TSA airport checkpoints beginning in 2016. As it turns out, this was all bluster. On Jan. 8, the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline another two years, until 2018.

Nevertheless, federal pressure had a lot of people worried about whether they would be able to fly with their current driver’s licenses. In New Hampshire, a coalition of legislators introduced House Bill 1616 (HB1616) to repeal the prohibition on participation in REAL ID and create a structure to issue compliant identification cards and driver’s licenses.

“2007, 243, as amended by 2010, 372:1, relative to prohibiting participation in a national identification card system, is repealed.”

An amendment by Rep. Neal Kurk blocked the move to repeal non-participation in a national ID system. Instead of allowing full participation in real ID, the bill now only creates a mechanism for issuance of REAL ID compliant identification for those who opt to have it. The amended legislation also limits the information available to the federal government through those enhanced IDs.

“In support of the department’s participation in the enhanced driver’s license program, the interface to the cognizant federal authority shall be implemented to provide a specific response at the time a New Hampshire enhanced driver’s license holder presents that license at a border crossing.  The department shall not provide the full set of driver information to the cognizant federal authority at the time of license issuance.”

A second amendment authored by Kurk would further limit federal access to New Hampshire driver’s license information.

“The department shall not provide any motor vehicle driver’s license, license plate, or identification card data to any agency or contractor of the federal government or another state or territory, or any provider of interstate license or identification messaging services, for use in compiling or creating “pointers” to or indexes of information concerning drivers’ licenses,  identification cards, or license plates.  The department shall not provide any information concerning drivers’ licenses, identification cards, or license plates except on a case-by-case basis for a named individual or specific license plate number in response to a request which includes the purpose of the request, the name of the agency or contractor which originated the request, and a unique identifier for the individual requester at that agency or contractor.  Such information shall be provided only for purposes related to issuance or validity.  The department shall report on its website by March 1 of each year beginning in 2017 the numbers of such requests, the numbers of records disclosed in response to them, the agencies making such requests and receiving records in response, and the purposes of these requests.”

The House recommended the bill as amended 245-76.

HB161 was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration, but the committee chair waived the referral under a House rule. The bill now moves on to the Senate for further consideration. It was assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Mike Maharrey

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