Here's why Real ID affects you
Maryland's laws and regulations allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses have always generated a passionate debate, but they have never commanded the state's focus like taxes or electric rates do. But as Julie Bykowicz reports this morning, that may be about to change in the last couple of weeks of this General Assembly session.
Both chambers are moving forward with bills to reverse the state's policy, but they're moving forward with a key difference. The recently-amended House version would grandfather in people with existing licenses, with those who don't or can't prove legal residence getting licenses labeled "not federally compliant," but the Senate version would require everyone to prove legal residence even when renewing a license. That distinction has already sparked lengthy debate (Republicans in the House pulled themselves off the bill as sponsors when the two-tiered license amendment was added), and it's not clear if or how it will be resolved before the assembly adjourns.
So why does it matter to the vast majority of Maryalnd drivers? Because we're coming up fast on a set of deadlines for the state to demonstrate a plan to comply with the federal Real ID act, which mandates a legal presence requirement. The first of these deadlines is in October, making this legislative session our last chance to change the law. If we don't demonstrate compliance, Marylanders could find that their driver's licenses are no longer good for getting onto an airplane or into a federal building. I'm betting that the minute people start getting turned away at BWI is the point at which this becomes an issue everybody is passionate about.