MOTOR VEHICLES OFFICE
Cathleen Allison  /  AP
Department of Motor Vehicles offices like this one in Carson City, Nev., could take on new duties under a congressional proposal aimed at countering terrorism.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/3/2005 8:54:25 PM ET 2005-05-04T00:54:25

Americans could soon be required to show four types of ID when applying for a driver's license. Despite objections from governors and state legislatures, Congress is close to passing that requirement as a post-Sept. 11 security measure.

Civil liberties and gun rights supporters, two groups often at odds, also oppose the measure on privacy grounds, saying they fear driver’s licenses will evolve into a national identification card.

Under the legislation, Americans applying for driver’s licenses would have to bring far more information with them to motor vehicle offices. They would be asked to show birth certificates, a photo ID, proof of their Social Security number and a document with full name and home address, according to a copy of the bill obtained by The Associated Press. It was unclear how the legislation would affect the renewal of licenses for citizens.

Verification required
Motor vehicle departments would be required to verify the documents and the Social Security numbers. States still could give licenses to illegal immigrants, but they would have different designs or colors to alert security officers that they are unacceptable as IDs for boarding planes or entering federal buildings.

Governors and state legislatures oppose the provisions as too costly, and force motor vehicle officials to become immigration officers.

"Governors share the concern for increasing the security and integrity of the driver's license and state identification processes," Raymond Scheppach, the head of the National Governors Association, said in a recent statement. But, he added, the proposed legislation "would impose unrealistic technological standards and burdensome verification procedures on states."

Undermine existing work?
The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated the legislation could cost states more than $500 million and undermine existing efforts to make driver's licenses more secure.

Those efforts are centered on recommendations first proposed by the president's Sept. 11 commission. State and federal officials should focus on those rather than dismantling the Sept. 11 Commission reforms and impose a rigid, "one-size-fits-all" mandate, NCSL Executive Director William Pound said in the joint statement with the governors association.

The two groups noted that an existing framework exists through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and "provides the opportunity to develop effective national standards." 

Congress should "oppose any legislative effort that would curtail this ongoing rulemaking process," the added.

Senate negotiators give green light
Under the federal legislation, which was attached to a bill funding operations in Iraq, states would have three years after the bill becomes law to meet the standards or their driver’s licenses won’t be accepted by federal officers for identification.

The House and Senate passed separate Iraq funding bills, and only the House included the license provision. But Senate negotiators working on a compromise bill on Monday accepted the House provision. The negotiators approved a final version of the bill Tuesday evening . The full House is to vote on the bill Thursday, the full Senate next week.

All but one of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had some form of U.S. identification, some of it fraudulent, the Sept. 11 Commission found. The commission recommended the federal government set standards for birth certificates and other identification documents, including driver’s licenses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Standardizing driver's licenses

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