BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's refusal to comply with a national identification law has state officials grappling with whether that decision could make it more difficult for state residents to fly without a passport or other federal ID.
Louisiana lawmakers enacted a prohibition against the federal REAL ID law in 2008, rejecting the added security requirements as too intrusive.
But questions have been raised about whether Louisiana residents will soon need passports to fly domestically — or face intense questioning from airport security — because their licenses or other state-issued ID don't comply with the federal standards.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly pushed back the compliance deadline for REAL ID for air travel, however, as 30 states have refused to obey the federal law that was passed in 2005 as an anti-terrorism measure.
The head of Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson, told a state task force looking at the issue Thursday that Louisiana residents are not at risk of needing a passport to fly within the coming months.
"I'm confident that your driver's license works fine," Edmonson, a member of the task force, told the panel that includes state lawmakers and representatives of Louisiana's congressional delegation.
Edmonson oversees the state Office of Motor Vehicles. He said that he's in regular contact with federal officials and that Louisiana is much farther along in complying with many of the REAL ID law standards than other states.
Sen. Robert Adley, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the state can't remain in a limbo where it relies on extensions from the federal government.
"We just can't keep going on like this year in and year out while the threat's over our head from Congress," said Adley, R-Benton.
He urged the representatives of the state's congressmen to return with a message about the need for more guidance.
Anthony Marino, director of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, told the task force that when the federal government begins enforcing the REAL ID requirements, only federally-approved identifications will be acceptable for easy movement through security at airports.
That would include driver's licenses or state IDs that meet the federal standards, passports or other federal government-issued IDs. Marino said those who have other noncompliant IDs will face increased questions and review at airport security checkpoints.
"It's not an easy matter getting a passport. It's not going down to the driver's license office and taking a picture and walking out with a driver's license," Adley said.
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles and the sponsor of the state law that forbids compliance with REAL ID, said groups across the political spectrum had concerns about privacy, identity theft and costs to states to implement the law.
He said since then, provisions of the original federal law requiring chips on driver's licenses and other invasive identification measures have been removed. But Geymann said he still worried that information gathered from state residents could be used in ways not intended.
To finish reaching compliance, Louisiana would have to require people to present their original birth certificate or a passport for driver's license renewals and would have to post on driver's licenses that they are REAL ID compliant, moves that would need an act of state lawmakers, according to the Louisiana State Police.