Washington, D.C. – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today favorably reported the Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification Act of 2009 (PASS ID), S. 1261, as amended.  The bill, sponsored by Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), would implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to enhance the security of driver’s licenses while reforming and resolving many of the troubling aspects of the REAL ID Act of 2005.

Senator Akaka said: “The bill the Committee approved is a good compromise that addresses many of the concerns we all have about the current REAL ID Act.  The PASS ID Act would implement identification security improvements, while fixing the worst parts of REAL ID and adding several important new privacy protections.  In particular, PASS ID will not require States to open their databases of sensitive identity documents and personal information to other DMVs across the country, which will eliminate a tremendous cost along with very serious privacy and identity theft concerns.  I support the compromise we reached on airport screening.  We must ensure we do not unnecessarily discourage people from traveling, especially for a State like Hawaii, which relies so heavily on air travel with tourism and inter-island travel.”

Senator Voinovich said: “Safety and security are two of my top priorities in this post 9/11 era. In 2004, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission recommended that the federal government set standards for driver’s licenses but left to Congress what those standards should be. After hearing numerous concerns from state and local officials about the standards established in the REAL ID Act, I believe we must address those concerns. The PASS ID Act sets standards for the issuance of drivers licenses, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, but does so in a way that takes into account States’ needs and capabilities. I am proud to support the bill and the committee substitute.”

Joining Senators Akaka and Voinovich as original cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Max Baucus (D-Montana), and Tom Carper (D-Delaware).  The legislation has the support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Governors Association (NGA) and National Council of State Legislators, and privacy and civil liberties groups. 

The Committee adopted several amendments today with the support of Senators Akaka and Voinovich, including:

  • Lieberman-Collins substitute, which addresses industry concerns with privacy limitations on uses of data Machine Readable Zones of driver’s licenses and IDs, allows DHS to issue interim final regulations to ensure that States can begin issuing compliant documents on time, and provides resources for the States for eventual electronic verification of birth certificates.
  • Voinovich amendment, which clarifies that the Department of Homeland Security retains its authority to verify a person’s identity to board a federally regulated commercial aircraft.  The original REAL ID Act could have been interpreted to bar individuals who did not possess a compliant ID from boarding an aircraft under many circumstances. 
  • Tester amendment, which would require the DHS Privacy Office and the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office to undertake an annual assessment of the privacy protections afforded under the PASS ID Act.

For additional background on PASS ID, please click here:  Senators Introduce PASS ID Bill [June 15, 2009]