Bill would allow state to implement federal ID system

Alongside the many bills passed by the Alaska Legislature on its last regular day, there was one new one. House Bill 378, introduced Sunday morning, allows the state to upgrade Alaska driver’s licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

That act, approved by Congress in 2005, was billed as an attempt to increase the security of state driver’s licenses by requiring minimum standards nationwide.

Alaskans didn’t see it that way. Many thought the act was a backdoor attempt to create a national ID card. In response to those concerns, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, proposed ─ and the Legislature passed ─ legislation forbidding the use of state funds, equipment or staff in implementing the act.

Since then, Alaska has received a federal exemption allowing it to avoid implementing the law, but problems are starting to arise. Earlier this year, gate guards at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks began turning away people who showed Alaska driver’s licenses; they said the ID was not good enough for entry.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the state has until Jan. 22, 2018 to come into compliance with the law, or Alaskan licenses will no longer be good enough to board commercial flights. All Alaskans would have to present a passport in order to fly.

HB 378 reverses some of the 2008 legislation and allows the state to implement the portions of the REAL ID Act pertaining to driver’s licenses.

The bill has been referred to two committees in the House.

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