HELENA — U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines on Thursday announced they are again introducing legislation to repeal federal driver’s license mandates included in the Real ID Act of 2005.
The law was passed to prevent identity theft and terrorism, but Montana officials oppose the law that establishes a national database to store documents that verify identity, such as a birth certificate. The state was granted two years worth of extensions to comply with the law, but its request for a third extension was denied in November.
The newly introduced legislation is up against a Jan. 30 deadline. After that, federal agencies won’t allow people with a Montana ID into federal facilities and military bases. In January 2018, Montanans won’t be able to use their driver’s license as a form of ID at airports if all the provisions in the Real ID Act stand.
Both Montana senators and Rep. Ryan Zinke introduced legislation to repeal parts of the Real ID act last session, but were unsuccessful.
"We've got to exhaust every option possible because of the upcoming ... deadline," Daines said. "Additionally, we have four members on the Homeland Security Committee including myself whose got jurisdiction over this bill that face similar challenges: Montana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kentucky."
Tester is confident the legislation will pass with the support of a new administration, Dave Kuntz, a spokesman for the senator, said.
On Wednesday, Tester asked John Kelly, the nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, to identify a solution to the Real ID act during his confirmation hearing.
Kelly responded with a commitment to find a solution that works for Montana before the January 2018 deadline that would keep Montanans from using their driver’s license at an airport.
State legislators voted in 2007 to forbid implementation of federal standards they said would prove needlessly expensive and “inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana.”
Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox have repeatedly said they won’t comply with the law. After Montana was denied a third extension, Bullock said Montana IDs are already secure and he expects Congress to fix the act.