Virginia’s General Assembly rejects REAL ID provisions
By David Sherfinski
DC Examiner Staff Writer 2/12/09
The Virginia House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed legislation rejecting elements of the federal government’s Real ID law, which requires states to issue federally mandated drivers’ licenses or similar forms of identification that would become part of a national database.
The House approved Del. Robert Marshall’s, R-Prince William, bill 88-10 on Tuesday, and the Senate passed legislation from Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, 30-9.
“I was obviously pretty pleased with that,” said Cuccinelli, noting that the bill survived a close 8-6 vote in committee. “Right and left were aligned on this thing. Consistent, steady, grassroots support for it, combined with no opposition … paved the way.”
Critics of the program argue that the law is an invasion of privacy.
“There’s [absolutely] no reason that we should link our data to another database that’s going to be broken into,” said Mike Stallenwerk, chairman of the Fairfax County Privacy Council. “That’s happened time and time again.
“This is fake security,” he added. “It’s not real security.”
The Virginia law, if signed by Gov. Tim Kaine, would not overtly reject Real ID. Rather, it would prohibit the state from complying with any element of the act that would compromise economic privacy, such as residents’ tax returns, financial transactions and investment transactions, or the security of biometric data, like fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA samples.
“This is not only a very important step forward for privacy rights in the state, but it looks as if Virginia will soon join 21 other states that have expressed opposition to some aspects of the federal Real ID law,” said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the U.S. improve its system for issuing ID documents.
“I’d like to see them repeal it straightway,” Cuccinelli said.
The program, whose purpose is to make it more difficult for terrorists to obtain fraudulent state-issued identification, is run by the Department of Homeland Security. Calls and e-mails placed to the agency were not immediately returned Wednesday.
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