Monday, July 24, 2006

Unwritten Rules, The Federal Government, And Pointless Showboating Legislation

From today's Chron:

Starting in 2008, all 22 million licensed California drivers will be required to go in person to a DMV office and prove their identity and address with three different documents before getting a new, federally approved state license. . . .

The new identification cards will be required in order to fly on airplanes and enter federal buildings. . . .

The Real ID Act requires every state to issue driver's licenses that comply with a national standard. The goal is to prevent fraud and make sure people applying for licenses are who they say they are and do not pose security risks. The perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks had valid licenses, which allowed them to board airplanes.
I'm guessing they'd have found a way to comply with this new law as well, had it existed. So do you feel safer yet? Wait, soon you'll just be angry:

While some initial planning can get started, California and the rest of the states are waiting for the federal government to issue the rules that will explain in detail how the Real ID Act is supposed to be put in place. Those rules are expected by the end of the year, and states have until May 2008 to get ready to issue the new licenses. . . .

To date, no federal money has been allocated to help states prepare for the new policies.

Real ID will change every facet of a license, although exactly how won't be known until the federal regulations come out. But states are already wondering how to deal with situations such as a license that will not allow initials.
So what you're saying is, we have a scant year to get ready to do, like, something. Different. Or whatever. Can't rush these things. Of course, it's one thing for North Dakota to comply. But with California already buckling under the weight of a ceaselessly growing population, 22 million of whom are licensed drivers, compliance here should be fun to watch.

Indeed, aside from the issues of how to process the new licenses, how they will be verified and what they will look like, California's biggest headache is how to physically get all 22 million licensed drivers -- plus an additional 2 million identification card holders -- through the DMV's 169 field offices.

Currently, a resident can get a license renewal twice by mail, meaning a trip to the DMV only once every 15 years. But under Real ID, every single person seeking a renewal will have to show up in the flesh, eliminating the 2.5 million transactions a year that can currently be done by mail or over the Internet. . . .

Once at the office, every person will have to show proof of identification -- likely a birth certificate or passport. The DMV will then be required to verify that document. Cather said the department obviously won't be able to make phone calls to county clerks all across the country; somehow a federal computer system will have to be established, but nothing has been done to date.

Applicants will also have to show two items that prove their address -- it's unknown what those will be, but probably a document such as a utility bill.

While the budgeted money allows the DMV to begin to think about these problems and work on ways to mitigate their effects, Democratic lawmakers made sure the language attached severely limits what the agency can do. In fact, the agency can only spend half the money at first; it must report back to the Legislature on its work before the remainder is allocated.

The bill that would allow the DMV to continue preparing the state for Real ID compliance also would grant driver's licenses to undocumented workers.

Democrats have tied the issues together in an attempt to force the Schwarzenegger administration to broker a deal.
Seriously? How farcical is this situation? Either you want to crack down on who gets licenses or not. How on earth would you fairly administer this program? Form #294 is for citizens and legal residents. Form #295 is for illegal residents not currently members of terrorist organizations. Form #296 is for Al-Q-ers and other haters of freedom? So some people present in the country who should not be here can go to the DMV, present documents proving they are who they say they are and that they shouldn't be here and get a license. Who gets to make the call that someone's a threat to national security? Does ANY of this make even one scrap of sense?

I'd love to be one of the people who sleeps better at night under this kind of "public policy" reform. Frankly, why not just hire the guys from Miami Ink to train a fleet of tattoo artists to go ahead and bar code us all now. It won't make us any safer and it will probably be less painful than having to stand in line at the DMV and prove ourselves to employees forced to work with patched-together, last-minute regulations.


Anonymous said...

Not only are there not rules, but as of the end of February, DHS hadn't even promulgated proposed rules. And unless the article mentioned proposed rules (which I might have missed) they probably still haven't promulgated them. Which, given what I learned in Admin Law last fall, makes me wonder whether they'll really be out at the end of the year, since it typically takes much longer to approve rules.

This also reminds me of a surprisingly pleasant experience I had with DHS (yes, I know you've had your problems with ICE, and they are all mostly stupid, but this was truly a great experience). See here.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad DHS got back to you efficiently to report it isn't really doing it's job - but as far as I'm concerned, regardless of the personal characters of what are, I'm sure, hard-working, dedicated public servants assigned to work for the administrative equivalent of a large, underground fungus, DHS is bad, bad news. DHS hurts people and will not be moved. If DHS is making us any safer - it's purely by accident.

Anonymous said...

Yah, I won't disagree with that.

I like your underground fungus metaphor too. I tend to think of the entire Bush administration as a malignant tumor, that is slowly spreading itself throughout the federal government. Although, I need to rethink that because it's now been 6 years, and it's probably all over the body (the tumor that is) by now.