Montana senators seek waiver from enhanced driver's licenses

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's U.S. senators have asked the government for an emergency waiver from the REAL ID Act that requires driver's licenses to have security enhancements and be issued to those who can prove they are in the country legally.

Montana and several other states oppose requirements in the federal law that include storing images of documents that driver's license holders present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates. The state was granted two extensions to comply, but its third request was denied last fall.

The requirements are scheduled to take effect Monday, meaning driver's licenses cannot be used as identification to access federal property.

U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines wrote to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Wednesday raising concerns that citizens' privacy rights could be violated.

"By working together, we know we can find a solution that respects the privacy rights of law-abiding Montanans, while also keeping our state and nation safe from bad actors who want to do us harm," the senators wrote.

U.S. District Courts in Montana already have said driver's licenses can still be used as identification to enter courthouses, but beginning Monday, people will need some form of compliant identification, such as a passport, to access Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls.

Starting Jan. 30, 2018, Montana driver's licenses will not be accepted as valid IDs at airports.

Tester and Daines noted that passports cost $110 for adults and $80 for children and can take up to six weeks to process.

"This extended wait can be a significant obstacle to families in cases of emergencies that require air travel," they wrote.

Montana has changed its driver's licenses and ID cards in ways that comply with the federal standards "without infringing on civil liberties, sacrificing privacy rights or subjecting our citizens to unnecessary cybersecurity risks," Tester and Daines wrote.

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