Is RealID an unfunded mandate? Rep. says no

The RealID Act requires states to meet a set of requirements for state's driver's licenses. Governors and other state executives have complained that the law, which doesn't specifically allocate funds to meet those requirements is an "unfunded mandate." Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va), discarded that characterization, saying, "States can do whatever they want,

The RealID Act requires states to meet a set of requirements for state's driver's licenses. Governors and other state executives have complained that the law, which doesn't specifically allocate funds to meet those requirements is an "unfunded mandate."

Last month, at the National Governors Association meeting, governors issued a press release stating their unhappiness with the federal government dictating requirements for driver's licenses but providing no funds. "The Real ID Act contains unreasonable burdens and unfunded mandates that are unworkable and counterproductive to its goals," the governors' said.

Yesterday, Government Computer News reported,  Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va), discarded  that characterization, saying, "States can do whatever they want,” Rep. Davis said. “It’s not an unfunded manadate in that sense. But if they want to use them as federal IDs, they must meet our standards."

He's technically correct on that point. The law says: "Beginning 3 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, a Federal agency may not accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a State to any person unless the State is meeting the requirements of this section."

But it's ridiculous to think that a state government could simply not have driver's licenses be acceptable by federal agencies. People in that state couldn't get a passport for one thing. And the point is to make sure that ID meets minimal federal standards. If states refuse to do it, then the next step is a national ID card, but that would be politically unpopular.

The RealID Act is an unfunded mandate, and the money will have to come from higher driver fees or federal funds. 

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