EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 8, 2014

Inaction on driver's licenses threatens ID use

Massachusetts remains one of 12 states not in compliance with the law

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr yesterday repeated his insistence that Gov. Deval Patrick bring Massachusetts into compliance with the 2005 federal law stiffening requirements on the issuance of driver’s licenses. Inaction could keep state residents from everyday acts, such as using their licenses as IDs when boarding airplanes or entering some federal facilities.

Massachusetts remains one of 12 states not in compliance with the law that was passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and is aimed at strengthening the integrity of states’ driver’s licenses and state-issued identification — most specifically by demanding that states verify citizenship before issuing the licenses.

“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.”

For example: Beginning April 1, according to Tarr, residents of states not in compliance with the federal law will not be able to use only their state driver’s license as an accepted form of identification access to some federal buildings and sensitive facilities, such as nuclear power plants.

In 2016, residents from states still not in compliance will need to show another form of accepted identification, such as a passport, along with their licenses to be able to board a plane for air travel.

There are 4.75 million licensed drivers in Massachusetts.

The federal law requires that states require proof of U.S. citizenship from license applicants before issuing their driver’s license. Foreign applicants for state driver’s licenses must show they are in this country legally before a state may issue them a driver’s license.

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