OLYMPIA, Wash. (Dec. 21, 2016) – Two bills prefiled for the 2017 legislative session would repeal a Washington state law prohibiting implementation of the REAL ID Act and set the state on a course to participate in an unconstitutional national identification system.Rep. Judy Clibborn (D- 41st Dist.) prefiled House Bill 1041 (HB1041) on Dec. 14. Sen. Curtis King (R- 14th Dist.) prefiled the companion Senate bill SB5008 a day earlier. The legislation would repeal a 2005 law and require the state to issue REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses beginning July 18, 2018. The bills would also double the cost of a driver’s license.

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 relies on states to implement.

Under the act, all 50 states were supposed to comply with the federal law by 2008. But, states rebelled against REAL ID for several reasons, including privacy concerns and the fact that Congress didn’t provide any funding for the mandates it imposes on states. To date, 27 states, including Washington, remain non-compliant, nullifying the national ID system in effect.

In 2007, a Washington law went into effect prohibiting any state agency or program from expending funds to implement or comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005 unless the federal government provided all of the necessary funding and certain privacy requirements were met. Since the REAL ID act made no provision for federal funding, the law effectively banned implementation of the national ID system in Washington.

Over the last year, the federal government has ramped up bullying tactics in an effort to force reticent states into compliance. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put Washington, Minnesota and Missouri on notice that they must comply with REAL ID. On Oct. 13, DHS sent letters to five more states denying their request for a time extensions to bring their driver’s licenses in compliance with REAL ID. This  means that in 2018, residents of these states, including Washington, may find themselves on a virtual no-fly list. They will need to have alternate ID, such as a passport, in order to clear TSA screening.

If HB1041 and SB5008 pass, it will open the door for Washington to move toward compliance with REAL ID.

But if history provides any indication, the feds will not follow through on their threats to punish non-compliant states. The federal government has played this game of brinkmanship for years, ultimately backing down and extending deadlines. It seems highly unlikely the feds will be willing to weather the political fallout the will result from keeping millions of Americans off commercial aircraft.

The Washington legislature should refuse to back down, and it should emphatically reject both bills.

REAL ID creates huge administrative burdens for state governments, while providing only minimal federal funds for implementing its onerous requirements. At the same time, it does nothing to combat terrorism and puts Americans at greater risk for invasions of privacy and identity theft. REAL ID represents not just an unfunded mandate, but an unconstitutional expansion of federal power over something reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment.


HB1041 and SB5008 will be officially introduced in the Washington legislature once the regular session begins. At that time they will be assigned to committees where they will have to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Mike Maharrey

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