Idaho bill would ask for federal ID compliance extension

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A lawmaker introduced legislation Friday hoping to avoid the problem of being unable to use an Idaho driver's license to board a commercial flight next year because the state doesn't comply with federal ID regulations.

The bill introduced by Republican Rep. Joe Palmer would allow the state's transportation agency to request a one-year extension to conform to the federal identification law. A House panel unanimously approved introducing the bill.

"We have no guarantee this will work. This is my personal try," said Palmer, chairman of the House Transportation and Defense Committee.

In 2008, Idaho lawmakers passed legislation that banned the state from complying with the federal Real ID Act, which requires proof of lawful status in the U.S. in order for a driver's license to be valid for federal use.

Lawmakers argued that the federal law is an unfunded mandate. The estimated cost to comply was $20 million, plus $5 million per year in ongoing costs.

Eight other states also are out of compliance. Washington was the most recent to receive a compliance waiver in January.

Friday's legislation doesn't aim to change Idaho's compliance ban. Instead, Palmer said it would allow state officials to research alternatives.

The federal law is being phased in slowly. As of mid-2014, access to some federal facilities was restricted without enhanced ID. Idaho does not offer enhanced driver's licenses, meaning Idahoans would need a passport or other approved ID to visit federally restricted sites.

The real threat starts as early as next year, when enhanced IDs could be required to board commercial aircraft. The federal government has not yet given a firm deadline on flight access, however.

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, asked what the state hoped to gain even if Idaho was granted a waiver, because the law wasn't being changed.

Palmer said the current law even prohibits state transportation officials from researching the issue. The proposed legislation would be the first time the state would have the opportunity to ask questions to federal agencies such U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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