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Politics

Maine Senate Endorses Bill to Make State Compliant with 'Real ID' Law

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Senate has voted 31-4 to endorse a bill that will make Maine comply with the federal Real ID law. 

The bill is designed to make Maine drivers' licenses align with the  federal identification law, which was passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and established minimum security standards for state-issued identification cards.

Maine has resisted complying with the law because of cost, constitutionality and privacy concerns. It will cost the state nearly $4 million over the next few years to comply with Real ID. And Democratic Sen. Shenna Bellows said compliance with the law will make Mainers vulnerable to identity theft.

"From my perspective it is madness to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to set up what will be a treasure trove for identity thieves," she said.

But the bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bill Diamond, said the state's resistance to compliance has come at a price that will, next year, prevent Maine driver's license holders from boarding passenger flights or entering federal buildings.

"If we want to see disruption and chaos back home knowing full well the deadline was before us, then we will see that and we all will hear that. And we should," he said.

The bill approved by the Senate will allow existing drivers' licenses to be accepted until they expire. However, the state will need to obtain a waiver from the federal government for existing licenses to be accepted at federal facilities. Eventually new licenses with enhanced security features will need to be issued in order for Mainers to access federal facilities that require Real ID.

The bill under consideration will allow Mainers to apply for a Real ID or opt-out.

The bill now moves to the House for additional votes.