Davis defends Real ID Act from states' criticism

House Government Reform Com- mittee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) insisted earlier this month that the Real ID Act, which outlines standards for issuing new driver's licenses, is not an unfunded mandate, despite what state governments may say.

The congressman spoke prior to a panel discussion on smart cards held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Davis said even his wife, a Virginia state senator, has characterized the Real ID Act as an unfair burden on states.

'States can do whatever they want,' Rep. Davis said. 'It's not an unfunded manadate in that sense. But if they want to use them as federal IDs, they must meet our standards.'

The Real ID Act, signed into law by President Bush May 11, directs states to overhaul and upgrade their driver's licenses and issuance processes by 2008. The new IDs would be required for everything from boarding an airplane to visiting a federal building. If the license presented at an airport, for example, did not meet Real ID regulations, other proof of identification would be necessary.

What is unknown is whether the licenses themselves have to be smart cards containing biometric information about individuals. The Real ID Act requires the Homeland Security Department to make that determination.

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