Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is developing a high-tech state driver's license that can serve as a border-crossing document, Wednesday signed legislation rejecting Real ID, a federal identification requirement that would essentially create a national ID card.
The Washington state legislation is part of a growing rebellion against an expensive federal mandate that the American Civil Liberties Union says would threaten personal privacy.
The new state law says Washington will not implement the new Real ID system unless: Uncle Sam foots the bill, the government takes steps to ensure that privacy and data security concerns are addressed and the system doesn't place unreasonable costs or recordkeeping burdens on the average citizen.
The measure also gives the state attorney general the authority, if the governor concurs, to go to court to challenge the federal law.
Adopted by Congress
The system was adopted by Congress in 2005, growing out of national security concerns. It requires states to develop a new driver's license and personal identification card that allows information to be stored and checked by national databases.
It requires the applicant to show a birth certificate, proof of citizenship, proof of state residency and other information. The person's driving history and other information must be stored electronically by the state.
The new system, which is supposed to be a requirement in 2008, would cost the state
$250 million to develop and implement, the governor said.
"This is another unfunded mandate from the federal government and, even worse, it doesn't protect the privacy of the citizens of Washington," Gregoire said Wednesday in signing the bill.
"Washington will not spend the $250 million without a guarantee of privacy and federal funds to help fund it."
The measure passed both houses with a strong bipartisan vote.
"While everyone can agree on the need for security, we need to make sure any new system will protect our privacy and data from abuse and will not bankrupt our state," said the prime sponsor, Senate Transportation Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.
"Only with those assurances in place will we be in a position to move forward with Real ID."
Besides the expense, Haugen said she had major concerns that "the numerous forms of identification required under this federal mandate ... could provide a virtual gold mine of information for identity thieves" who could hack into the system.
"Lawmakers from both parties took a strong stand against Real ID," said Jennifer Shaw, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington. "It would threaten personal privacy as well as create a bureaucratic nightmare to implement."
She said by placing personally identifiable information into databases accessible across the country, Real ID could make consumers more vulnerable to identity theft and abuse.
Shaw said Washington is the fifth state to express opposition to the federal law, joining Montana, Idaho, Arkansas and Maine, and that more than 20 other states are considering similar laws or protest resolutions.
On the web
Licensing agency: www.dol.wa.gov