During the 2007 Montana Legislative session, the consistently divided political parties united on one front unanimously opposing the federal Real ID Act creating a single unified identification card for all United States citizens. Montana led the charge against the act, passing a state law that defiantly prohibits compliance with the federal measure.
Fifteen other states have followed, signaling their intent to flout the feds.
But despite the backlash, the Real ID Act remains the law of the land, as does the May 11 deadline for states to implement the program. If Montana changes its stance on the issue and agrees to play ball, federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will extend the deadline to Dec. 2017.
Earlier this month, Chertoff threatened that citizens of the rebellious states would be effectively prohibited from air travel. The troublemakers include Washington and Georgia, homes to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport–two of the busiest airports in the world.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer sent a letter this week to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter seeking continued solidarity against what he calls “a major threat to privacy, constitutional rights, and the pocketbooks of ordinary Montanans.”
Montana Sen. Jon Tester has co-sponsored a bill drafted by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to repeal Real ID’s provisions and revive state-federal negotiations. The bill awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Montana and 16 other states have made it very clear that we’re not about to cave in and implement an expensive national ID card that allows Big Brother to peer into our private lives,” Tester says. “At the federal level [Sen. Max Baucus] and I will keep trying to get rid of Real ID altogether and focus on more effective ways of strengthening our security without weakening our privacy.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Real ID program will cost Montana millions of dollars to implement.