No Fly Zone: Why TSA soon won't take some states' driver's licenses as ID

New enforcement of a 10-year-old law could mean that residents of at least four states can't use their driver's licenses to get through airport security in 2016. 

Martin Meissner/AP
A board shows canceled flights at an airport. A conflict over privacy between state legislatures and the federal government could keep residents from some states out of the airport in 2016 because their driver's licenses don't meet federal standards.

Four states have run afoul of a federal counterterrorism law, a clash that could affect millions in 2016, when residents of those states try to go through airport security.  

For example, new driver's licenses issued by the state of New York don't cut it for airport security officials, who have told the public they may need to bring another ID when they fly, the New York Daily News reports. 

As part of post-9/11 security measures, a federal law was passed in the 2005, called the REAL ID Act. The Department of Homeland Security announced an enforcement plan two years ago. In 2016, the agency will start enforcing parts of the act that require a driver's license issued according to federal standards in order for airline passengers to fly, according to the department's website. 

New Yorkers aren't the only Americans for whom airport travel could get more difficult. Arizona also issues driver's licenses that just won't fly by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standards.

"Arizona got nervous that this was going to be a mandatory national ID card and people would be looking at metadata and all these things we sometimes worry about," Sen. Bob Worsley (R) told Arizona 12 News. "So our state went the other direction, instead of doing it we said, 'We ban MVD [Motor Vehicle Division] in Arizona from implementing Real ID.'"

Sen. Worsley began working on a bill last spring that would allow Arizona residents to get a license that qualified as Real ID for $15, but the state has now received a federal exemption to take more time resolving the problem.

Other states have been issuing driver's licenses that don't reach the standard of security that TSA requires, including Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. 

New Hampshire Rep. Steven Smith (R) said Wednesday he has a bill to enable New Hampshire residents to get a license that works, reports the Concord Monitor. The state had not complied with the act before because of concerns about privacy; the approved ID requires that a person's information, including photos and social security numbers, be placed in a database accessible to several federal agencies. 

Under Smith's bill, only those worried about air travel and entering certain federal buildings would need to get the enhanced ID, and other New Hampshire residents could opt out.

The Louisiana legislature passed a similar bill in 2014, but Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed it because of similar concerns about privacy and worries that it might make state police investigations into identity theft more difficult, reported the Times-Picayune.  

In Minnesota, the conflict with the federal government brought internal conflict as well. The Minnesota legislature, like Arizona, passed a law banning the state from even estimating the cost of implementing the act. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) of Minnesota told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press Tuesday that if necessary, he will call a special session of legislature, which won't be in session until March.

The state of New York already offers an alternative license that costs $30, state officials told the New York Daily News. The state is also requesting an Homeland exemption that will allow the state's licenses to be used as ID until 2020. 

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