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March 4 -Governor Hassan's Statement on Senate Transportation Committee Rejecting Bill to Give New Hampshire Residents Choice on Drivers' Licenses

Innovate New Hampshire
Balanced Budget
Public Safety
Press Release

For Immediate Release
March 4, 2015

Contact:
Communications Office
(603)271-2121

Governor Hassan's Statement on Senate Transportation Committee Rejecting Bill to Give New Hampshire Residents Choice on Drivers' Licenses
Governor Directs Division of Motor Vehicles to Begin Notifying Renewal and New License Applicants that New Hampshire Driver's Licenses May Not Be Accepted at Federal Facilities

CONCORD – Following a vote yesterday by the Senate Transportation Committee to recommend killing Senate Bill 262, legislation that would give New Hampshire residents a choice whether to obtain a federally accepted driver's license or other identification card, Governor Maggie Hassan directed the Division of Motor Vehicles to begin notifying applicants for new licenses and license renewals that their New Hampshire driver's license may not be accepted at some federal buildings, and may not be accepted for air travel as early as 2016.

In addition, Governor Hassan also today wrote New Hampshire's Congressional Delegation urging them to seek further extensions for New Hampshire under the federal secure identification law, known as REAL ID.

The federal government notified New Hampshire in late November that it would begin implementing the federal REAL ID law on a rolling basis and that New Hampshire identifications would not be accepted. After discussions with the leadership of the House and the Senate, Governor Hassan and the Department of Safety worked with Senator Donna Soucy to introduce legislation that would give New Hampshire residents the choice of whether or not to get a federally accepted license.

"This common-sense legislation would give Granite Staters the choice to obtain a license or identification card that is compliant with federal requirements for acceptance in certain facilities, or to instead receive a driver's license that will only remain acceptable for state use," Governor Hassan said. "I certainly understand the Senate Transportation Committee's hope that the federal government is just crying 'wolf,' but given the potential consequences to New Hampshire citizens, it is important that we make sure that they have all of the information. Therefore, I have asked the Division of Motor Vehicles to begin notifying applicants for new license and license renewals that their New Hampshire driver's license may not be accepted at federal buildings and, beginning as early as 2016, may not be accepted for travel on airplanes."

Under current law, New Hampshire driver's licenses are not compliant with federal requirements and may not be accepted for entrance into federally secure facilities, such as the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, federal buildings, and – no sooner than 2016 – may not be accepted for travel on airplanes. Senate Bill 262 would give New Hampshire residents the option to obtain a driver's license or other identification card that will be accepted for entrance into these facilities, or to not obtain such a license and receive one that is just acceptable for state use. Without this legislation, New Hampshire residents could be required to obtain a federal passport in order to enter secure facilities or to travel on airplanes.

New Hampshire licenses and identification cards had been accepted for use at certain federal facilities under an extension waiver from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but DHS indicated in a letter last November that there was not adequate justification for another extension and beginning in January of this year, federal agencies may not accept New Hampshire licenses and other identification cards for official purposes.

Governor Hassan also submitted a letter in support of Senate Bill 262 to the Senate Transportation Committee. 

The letter from DHS and a list of identification provisions with which New Hampshire is compliant and non-compliant are attached. For more information on the DHS enforcement schedule, visit http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs.

The federal government has issued the following schedule for phased-in enforcement: 

  • Phase 1: Restricted areas (i.e., areas accessible by agency personnel, contractors, and their guests) for DHS headquarters in Washington – April 21, 2014
  • Phase 2: Restricted areas for all Federal facilities & nuclear power plants – July 21, 2014
  • Phase 3: Semi-restricted areas (i.e., areas available to the general public but subject to ID-based access control) for most Federal facilities –January 19, 2015
    • 3a: Facility Security Levels 1 and 2 –January 19, 2015
    • 3b: Facility Security Levels 3, 4, and 5, and military facilities October 10, 2015 
  • Phase 4: Boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft

A driver's license or identification card from a noncompliant state may only be used in conjunction with a second form of ID for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft no sooner than 2016.

Governor Hassan's full letters to the congressional delegation and the Senate Transportation Committee are below:

*****

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen
506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510 

Dear Senator Shaheen:

As you may be aware, the Department of Homeland Security has not extended New Hampshire's waiver under the federal REAL ID law, passed by Congress under then-President George W. Bush. As communicated by the federal government, this will have serious consequences to New Hampshire citizens, who may find themselves unable to enter certain federal facilities or to travel on airplanes beginning as early as 2016.

New Hampshire passed a law forbidding its participation in REAL ID, but unlike other states that have similar laws, this year New Hampshire was notified that the federal government would not continue our waiver. The Department of Homeland Security tells us we differ from those states in two key aspects: we allow drivers to delete their photos from the state's motor vehicle system and we allow drivers to delete their Social Security Numbers from the state system.

Although only a small percentage of drivers choose those options, the Department of Homeland Security has informed New Hampshire that because these options exist, and because New Hampshire's Division of Motor Vehicles is forbidden from identifying licenses based on compliance with REAL ID, it did not believe there was adequate justification to extend New Hampshire's REAL ID waiver. The Department of Homeland Security has also released a phased enforcement schedule that began with the most secure federal facilities and will, according to their schedule, culminate with rejecting New Hampshire driver's licenses for use in travel beginning sometime in 2016.

The New Hampshire Senate Transportation Committee recently rejected proposed legislation that would have allowed New Hampshire citizens to choose whether to have a federally accepted license. If the New Hampshire Legislature follows the Committee's lead, New Hampshire citizens won't be able to make an individual choice on obtaining a federally compliant license, so I am asking you to request that the Department of Homeland Security extend New Hampshire's waiver, and if the department is unable to continue that waiver under federal law, to file legislation to repeal the REAL ID requirements.

Under both current federal and state laws, New Hampshire citizens may find themselves blocked from travel without warning – whether for a business trip, a vacation or a family emergency. Lack of access to federally accepted identification could also hurt our businesses whose employees must travel to meet clients in other states, and it may also make us less attractive to new businesses that are dependent on travel.

The lack of REAL ID-compliant identification could become a major burden for New Hampshire citizens and business, and I urge you to do whatever is in your power to mitigate these consequences. Thank you for your consideration.

With every good wish,

Margaret Wood Hassan
Governor 

cc: Senator Kelly Ayotte
Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster
Congressman Frank Guinta 

*****

Senator Nancy Stiles, Chairman
Senate Transportation Committee
Room 103
State House, Concord

Dear Madam Chair and members of the Senate Finance Committee:

I write in support of Senate Bill 262, relative to the form of drivers' licenses and identification cards. Senate Bill 262 will allow New Hampshire residents to choose whether to obtain a driver's license or other identification card that will be accepted for entrance into federally secure facilities, such as the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, federal buildings, and – sometime in 2016 – for travel on airplanes. Under this legislation, New Hampshire residents will also remain free to choose not to obtain such a license and will still receive a driver's license acceptable for state use.

Without this legislation, New Hampshire residents would be required to obtain a federal passport in order to enter secure facilities or to travel. Right now, about two-thirds of Americans do not have passports. Requiring our citizens to obtain passports for travel will be a costly – and time-consuming – burden for many families. Without the opportunity to make their own choice, citizens may find themselves blocked from travel without warning – whether for a business trip, a vacation or a family emergency. Lack of access to federally accepted identification could also hurt our businesses whose employees must travel to meet clients in other states. It may also make us less attractive to new businesses that are dependent on travel.

As someone who voted for the initial legislation on this issue in 2007, I am pleased that the federal government has heard and responded to the concerns expressed at the time. New Hampshire retains control of its data and is not required to provide drivers' license information to a national database. In addition, the drivers' licenses are not required to include radio frequency identification devices.

Given the potential consequences for our residents and our businesses, I believe it is important that we allow all our residents to make their own individual choices about whether or not to obtain a federally accepted driver's license. This legislation would make that possible. Thank you for your consideration.

With every good wish,

Margaret Wood Hassan
Governor

20140930 DHS Findings - New Hampshire  pdf file | NH REAL ID Letter  pdf file

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