Update on PASS ID Act negotiations

By Janice Kephart on April 20, 2009

The National Governors Association (NGA) is continuing to negotiate its bill called PASS ID Act (analyzed in my April 6, 2009 Backgrounder "The Appearance of Security: REAL ID Final Regulations vs. PASS ID Act of 2009"). The March 27, 2009 bill draft I analyzed continues to be honed, with the goal of introducing it (so I'm told) in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures' Spring Forums in Washington, D.C., April 22-25, 2009. The NCSL, in turn, is discussing the possibility of releasing a statement on the bill while they are in session. Historically, the NCSL has been, for the most part, aligned with the NGA on REAL ID.

While one senior Senate staffer indicated that "some faults" listed in my April 6 Backgrounder have been solved, that remains dubious. While new drafts are unavailable for review and are still under negotiation amongst Senate staff (that is to say, those Senate staff members included in negotiations by those Senators supporting PASS ID), apparently they are still working off of the March 27 draft that my Backgrounder is based on.

Today a senior staffer in a state government forwarded "proposed changes" to the PASS ID Act. This staffer had been asked for comments, as a subject matter expert. While I cannot repeat the exact comments made to me, they were highly derogatory of the PASS ID Act, citing: 1) complete lack of security in the bill; 2) that the bill looks like an "anything goes and as good as what you can get on a street corner"; 3) the sheer infusion of monies already expended to comply with REAL ID by his state that would be wasted in terms of compliance with the law; 4) and the tremendous asset REAL ID has been to catching fraud and criminals in applicants and employees, increasing revenue, and building overall efficiency into their DMV system.

In the email forwarded to me, the NGA's latest changes which it is asking states to comment on include (these are direct quotes):

1. Delete the reference to use of the PASS ID for securing federal employment.

2. Implementation date: rather than saying implementation will begin on a date-forward basis on January 1, 2013, this draft would tie implementation to the issuance of regulations. Implementation would now begin "one year after the issuing of regulations…"

3. Biometric data: references to the inclusion of biometric data with other personally identifiable information have been deleted.

4. Exceptions process: the mandate to establish an exceptions process to accommodate a "sincerely held religious belief" has been removed.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse. And just think about all the things this staffer was not asked to comment upon... .