While the Assembly Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to call for repeal of the federal Real-ID Act, Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, suggested earlier in the day that Nevada take what appears to be an easy out and dump the requirement on U.S. passport offices.
Department of Motor Vehicles Director Ginny Lewis told both committees Real-ID, which is mandated by 2013 for all Americans seeking to get or renew a driver's license, will cost $30 million this budget cycle and another $34 million the next cycle for her department to implement. It requires all drivers to physically appear at a DMV office and show proof of who they are, including a birth certificate and Social Security card, and that states physically inspect and copy those documents.
She said she supports the standardization of licensing procedures and improving the integrity of driver's licenses in the U.S., adding that, while Nevada already meets many of its requirements, other states are more lax.
She told both the transportation and the money committees in separate hearings that the federal government's proposed rules raise a sort of loophole by agreeing to accept a passport as "Real-ID."
"If that's the case, why would any of us want to go through the hassle of getting a Real-ID card?" she said.
That prompted Beers to recommend Nevada "just sit back" and let other, larger states figure out the best way to comply with the act.
"It seems very foolish for us to spend $30 million of highway construction money doing this," he said pointing out that people "are either going to have to go down to DMV or go down to the passport office."
"Why not send them to the passport office?"
He said that would force the federal government to deal with the problems created by its Real-ID Act, which was added to an Iraq-Hurricane Katrina funding bill at the last minute in 2005 and done without hearings.
"There's a poetic justice in that, now, the onus of compliance with impossible government standards falls back on those setting the standards," he said.
Lewis said the problem with that approach is the federal requirement calls for states to submit a comprehensive plan for meeting the requirements by May 2008. States that fail to do so would find their driver's licenses no longer accepted as official documents, causing numerous problems for their residents who need to travel or engage in any other activity where ID is required.
Beers, however, said Nevada should hold off: "I think we say we're not going to provide a plan. Until we can see how other states are doing it and find the least expensive way possible, we're going to send people down for a passport."
Lewis said the federal rules released earlier this month did little to satisfy state complaints about the requirements. She said the Department of Homeland Security claims that they provided more money and more time to implement are both hollow. She said states can use some existing homeland security grant money for the project - but all that does is take money from projects now relying on those funds. And all Nevada's Homeland Security grants could provide is about $1 million.
She said states can get extensions on starting their compliance programs but can't extend the actual implementation date of the act.
"The longer you take the extensions, the more compressed the chaos in the DMV," she said.
She said after the act is in place, it's still not clear whether everyone must return to DMV every four years to show the same ID documents to renew their license. She said the financial effect to Nevada could be ongoing and permanent.
The Assembly Transportation Committee approach simply calls on Congress to repeal the act or provide proper rules for implementing it and the money to cover the cost. AJR6 was co-sponsored by every member of the Assembly and, according to prime sponsor Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, has strong support in the Senate as well.
It goes to the Assembly floor for a vote.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.