CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons plans to issue an emergency regulation enacting the federal Real ID Act, even as the federal government contemplates delaying the controversial measure.
Starting in January, newcomers to Nevada seeking a driver’s license and those obtaining their first driver’s license would be compelled to show a birth certificate, a Social Security card and documents verifying their residency.
Eventually, all Nevadans would be required to show such ID to renew their licenses, a move that Gibbons and other supporters of the measure say would prevent terrorists and people in the country illegally from obtaining identification cards.
Even if Gibbons issues the order, it could all be for naught. State legislators who have strongly opposed Real ID, citing its $1.5 million price tag, are threatening to kill it after the end of a 120-day emergency regulation period.
“It has direct impact to the state of Nevada if we don’t move forward on Real ID,” the governor said.
Under the federal law, residents in states that do not adopt Real ID could be prevented from boarding interstate airline flights unless they agree to more extensive screening to determine if they have weapons. They also could be prevented from entering federal courthouses.
Critics have branded the Real ID Act an attempt to impose a national identification card on Americans. They say that would increase the threat of identity theft, enable the routine tracking of U.S. citizens and move the nation toward a surveillance society.
Rebecca Gasca, public advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned why Gibbons wants to follow Real ID when most governors look at it as an invasion of their citizens’ privacy.
“Even the governor of New York did not do it,” said Gasca, who wrote Gibbons earlier this week and requested he not issue the regulations.
“The governor of Nevada is the only governor in the United States pushing for this. Why? It is a waste of Nevada resources.”
Forty-six states have filed protests over the Real ID Act.
Daniel Burns, Gibbons’ communications director, said today that, “As of this moment, we are going forward. The law is the law.”
But he said Gibbons and the state Department of Motor Vehicles will factor in what U.S. Homeland Security Janet Napolitano does. She is expected to announce an indefinite postponement of the Dec. 31 deadline for states to comply.
The governor’s emergency regulations remain in effect for 120 days. The Legislature then could decide to make the regulation permanent, or void it entirely.
Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Legislative Committee to Review Regulations, said he has no doubt that legislators would reject any Real ID regulations if Napolitano postpones the deadline.
By the time such a decision is made, however, the state’s Real ID program will probably already be up and running.
“If they back away from it, what is the need for regulations?” Conklin asked. “It would be a wise decision for the federal government to back off. This is not in the best interest of Nevadans.”
Conklin said the primary reason his committee did not approve a proposed Real ID regulation last month is because members anticipated Napolitano would postpone Real ID because of state opposition.
The Nevada Legislature in 2007 overwhelmingly passed a resolution — with only Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, voting no — that called on Congress to repeal the Real ID Act.
Governors do not sign legislative resolutions, but as a member of the U.S. House in 2005, Gibbons voted for the act.
The emergency regulation that Gibbons will sign requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to follow 18 Real ID benchmarks.
The benchmarks include retaining driver’s license applicants’ facial images, verifying their Social Security card numbers and addresses, checking whether they are legal residents, and doing background checks on DMV workers who have access to drivers’ information.
Tom Jacobs, a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman, said his agency will retain all drivers’ information in its own database, not as part of a national database, although it will share information with other states about problem drivers.
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