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Georgia Senate balks at national ID card

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Posted: February 9, 2007 6:48 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers on Friday joined a growing number of states balking at a federal act requiring a standardized national driver’s license.
    The state Senate voted overwhelmingly to delay meeting requirements of the federal Real ID Act until the Department of Homeland Security guarantees it won’t compromise the privacy of Georgia citizens.
    Passed by Congress in 2005 and signed by President Bush as part of a funding package for the Iraq war, the law sets a national standard for driver’s licenses and requires states to link their records to national databases.
    The law’s supporters, most notably the federal Department of Homeland Security, say it is needed to prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from getting fake identification cards.
    Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, the chamber’s Republican whip, said it’s unclear that the act, which goes into effect May 11, 2008, would maintain security for information such as date of birth and a national ID number and other personal data like fingerprints and retina scans.
    ‘‘I am not very confident that adequate, well thought out, well prepared and well tested safeguards will be in place to protect Georgians’ most vital personal data,’’ said Seabaugh, the plan’s sponsor.
    The bill would authorize Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, to delay implementing the act until he’s satisfied the federal government has a plan to secure the privacy of information stored on the cards.
    On Jan. 26, the Maine legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution objecting to the Real ID Act. About a dozen other states have active legislation against the plan, including Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
    Seabaugh said he expects as many as 30 states to oppose the act.
    The only senator who criticized the Georgia bill Friday was Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Powder Springs, who ultimately voted in favor of it.
    But he called the effort hypocritical in a Republican-controlled chamber that has pushed to require Georgia voters to provide photo identification before they’re allowed to vote.
    ‘‘I just wanted to point out if you go and get Webster’s dictionary and look up the word ’hypocrisy,’ you might see our picture in there somewhere,’’ said Thompson, who like other Democrats has argued that requiring picture IDs to vote would unfairly impact elderly, poor and minority voters who are least likely to have driver’s licenses.
    ‘‘We’re for it one day and we’re against it the next.’’
    Republicans responded that there’s no requirement in the state bill for the kind of sensitive information the federal act would require.
    State and federal judges have so far blocked Georgia’s voter ID requirement.
    The Senate bill passed 51-1 and now goes to the Georgia House.
    ———
    On the Net:
    Senate Bill 5, http://www.legis.state.ga.us/
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