After shunning it for 10 years, key Maine panel backs REAL ID compliance

Maine took a key step toward complying with a federal identification program that it has shunned for a decade over privacy concerns on Friday, when a legislative committee voted to endorse it with an opt-out provision for individuals.

The vote in the Legislature’s Transportation Committee backed a bill that would repeal a 2007 law that barred Maine from complying because of privacy concerns and controversial data warehousing requirements. Maine is one of five states that isn’t complying.

But Maine lawmakers are now under more pressure: In January, federal government stopped accepting Maine driver’s licenses at certain facilities including military bases and next year, licenses won’t be accepted for domestic air travel unless the state moves to comply with the act.

The bill to comply is sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. The version endorsed by 12 of 13 committee members on Friday would allow Mainers to opt out of the program, getting licenses that would be valid for driving, but wouldn’t be accepted by the federal government.

Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, was the only committee member to oppose that version, instead pushing her own amendment to provide funding to buy passport cards for low-income people while pushing back against REAL ID implementation.

Diamond’s bill now faces votes in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.