The Wizard of Oz

Toward the end of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wizard ostensibly grants Dorothy’s companions their wishes:  the Scarecrow is given a diploma to prove knowledge, the Lion a medal to demonstrate courage, and the Tin Man receives a ticking heart-shaped watch.

Apparently, the federal government is now the Wizard of Oz as they believe the 2005 REAL ID Act will better protect Americans with driver’s licenses and identification cards.

REAL ID sets minimum federal standards for identification forms, including driver’s licenses.  It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that don’t meet these standards.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently informed the Commonwealth it’s not in compliance with REAL ID.  According to DHS, Pennsylvania has failed to:

  • Fully comply with DHS-approved security markings for driver’s licenses and identifications;
  • Require “in person re-issuance when there is any material change in personal identifiable information since prior issuance”;
  • Prohibit “the remote renewal of REAL ID DL/ID when there is a material change in personally identifiable information”;
  • Allow individuals to hold more than one REAL ID document and no more than one drivers’ license, and;
  • Note current driver’s licenses are not acceptable for official federal purposes because they don’t incorporate “a unique design or color indicator that clearly distinguishes them from compliant licenses and identification card.”

Before a REAL ID card can be issued, applicants must provide:

  • A photo ID (or a non-photo ID that includes full legal name and birthdate);
  • Birth date documentation;
  • Documentation of legal status and Social Security number, and;
  • Documentation showing name and principal residence address.

Digital images of each of these documents must be stored in a database in each state.

When you cut through all of this bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, it appears Pennsylvania residents will not be able visit federal facilities using state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards beginning January 30, 2017 and will not be able to board commercial aircraft using these ID forms beginning January 22, 2018 simply because our driver’s licenses don’t have a federally approved sticker or are the wrong color.  If only these requirements applied to the receipt of public benefits or voting.

More importantly, how does a sticker or a color code make anyone safer?

With the federal government already collecting, storing, and amassing data on us from cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices (sometimes without 4th Amendment warrants), I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s quote etched in the Capitol’s granite steps:  “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

In 2009, I introduced legislation to exempt Pennsylvania from REAL ID.  That bill was amended and reintroduced in 2011, when it was again amended before being overwhelming passed by both the Senate and House and signed into law in 2012.

At the time, other states had taken similar action, including:  Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Despite the lack of evidence on how this unfunded federal mandate will better protect us, other states have begun to cave to federal pressure and are beginning to comply with REAL ID.

It will be interesting to see what Pennsylvania does – especially if we remember the 10th Amendment:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”