State lawmakers on Wednesday refused to hire a contractor to begin work on the Real ID Act.
"The feds actually delayed implementation of this," said Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas. "Why do we have to do this now?"
DMV Director Ginny Lewis said the $80,000 contract is needed to begin work on a federally mandated compliance report the state must produce by February 2008. She said that report is required whether Nevada decides to comply with Real ID or not and that it will take time to prepare because of the many requirements in the report.
Lawmakers are considering a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Real ID Act, which was slipped into an appropriations bill at the last minute in 2005 and without a hearing on its merits. On Tuesday, they objected to funding needed to implement the Act.
All states have objected to the cost of implementing the requirements - estimated at $64 million in Nevada alone.
Under Real ID, every driver in the state would have to physically appear at a DMV office with Social Security card and birth certificate in hand to prove who they are and that they are legally entitled to be in the U.S. Lewis said she must add 147 more staff just to handle that load, make major computer programming changes and create a laundry list of new rules and procedures.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said lawmakers can hope Congress changes the law or at least funds it, but to be prudent Nevada should go forward with plans to meet its requirements.
The Real ID Act requires all state driver's licenses meet security requirements by 2013. But Lewis told the Interim Finance Committee on Wednesday if the state doesn't produce that report by February 2008, Nevada driver's licenses will no longer be accepted as identification for any functions involving the federal government or for such things as air travel. She said failing to meet the requirements wouldn't be fair to Nevada residents.
Speaker Barbara Buckley and Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, Democrats from Las Vegas, said the state should hold off on funding and on hiring the contractor for two or three months and decide at the end of the legislative session whether it's necessary.
"We want to explore every possibility before we start pouring money down that rat hole," Buckley said.
Raggio said holding off until the end of session would leave DMV with "a very short time" to complete that plan. He said DMV is a well run agency that is trying to look ahead and shouldn't be penalized.
But Buckley said the $80,000 to hire the contractor this fiscal year seemed to commit the state to the $310,000-a-year contract to keep that company on the job next year and through 2009. She said the entire proposal should be reviewed by the money committees, not pushed through the Interim Finance Committee.
While a majority of the Senate supported the contract, it didn't get enough Assembly members to pass, meaning Lewis will have to take her case to the money committees.
She said after the hearing that the decision cuts the amount of time DMV has to complete its compliance plan by about one-third to just more than six months.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.