NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 12, 2014

Our view: Mass. fails test in drivers license checks

The refusal of Gov. Deval Patrick and leading Massachusetts legislators to comply with federal law on driver’s licenses will soon start to have real consequences for Bay State citizens.

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr is sounding the alarm that Massachusetts remains one of 12 states not in compliance with the federal Real ID law. One section of the law, passed in 2005 in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks, requires states to verify citizenship or legal immigrant status when issuing driver’s licenses. The Sept. 11 hijackers had used state-issued driver’s licenses to facilitate their plans.

After a number of delays, the Department of Homeland Security will begin to phase in the law this year. Beginning April 1, according to Tarr, residents of Massachusetts and other non-compliant states will no longer be able to use their driver’s licenses to gain entry to some federal buildings and sensitive facilities such as nuclear power plants. Beginning in 2016, Massachusetts residents would no longer be able to use their driver’s licenses to board airplanes.

“That doesn’t mean that our driver’s licenses won’t be valid in Massachusetts as a driver’s license,” Tarr said Friday. “But it means the federal government no longer has to accept them as of April for identification purposes. It means a lot, in my opinion, that a federal agency wouldn’t recognize a Massachusetts driver’s license.”

Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, also represents Newbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Rowley and West Newbury.

New Hampshire residents have been granted a bit of a reprieve. New Hampshire is one of several states granted an extension by Homeland Security for showing progress toward compliance with Real ID. New Hampshire driver’s licenses will continue to be accepted at federal facilities as long as the extension is in force.

In Massachusetts, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia J. Blue released a statement to our sister newspaper The Gloucester Times saying only that the Registry is “in an active dialogue with its partners at the Department of Homeland Security” and is working to “address their outstanding concerns.”

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