Bill provides $315 million to standardize driver's licenses

Two Virginia lawmakers introduced legislation May 1 that would establish standard security features for all state-issued driver's licenses, making it more difficult for criminals and would-be terrorists to obtain fake licenses.

The Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002, sponsored by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Tom Davis, R-Va., also authorizes $315 million to implement the standards and link state databases containing driver's license information.

At least eight of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11 were able to establish themselves in American society by obtaining fake state-issued driver's licenses. And according to a recent report by the Progressive Policy Institute, false identification results in billions of dollars in fraud every year, allows criminals to move freely and allows terrorists to plot attacks on the United States from within. As many as 800,000 people a year are victims of identity theft and fraud, according to recent congressional testimony.

"As long as possession of a valid driver's license is taken as unquestionable proof of identity for the distribution of other important documents ? such as passports, Social Security cards and employee ID cards ? the lack of uniform standards and a unique biometric identifier for state-issued driver's licenses will remain a problem," Moran said. "This bill makes a long-needed correction by giving uniformity to state-issued identification."

The Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002 fixes "the unworkable patchwork of licensing standards currently in place by giving states the resources and time they need to implement a new system ? thereby avoiding unwanted, unfunded federal mandates," Davis said.

The bill would:

*Give states and the District of Columbia up to five years to implement universal standards for driver's licenses;

*Improve license security by including a biometric feature, such as a retinal scan or fingerprint, on an encrypted smart chip embedded in the licenses;

*Require state motor vehicle department databases to be linked, allowing departments to verify the identity of individuals from other states who are applying for licenses;

*Require states to have tougher standards for the documents it requires people to submit when applying for licenses;

*Strengthen federal law prohibiting identity fraud and theft by making it a federal crime for people to alter or create a fake license, even if they do not transport the identification across state lines;

*Authorize $315 million to implement universal standards and put in place software linking state databases.

"The fact that the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 hijackings would have had a far more difficult time pulling off their attacks if these reforms had been in place at the time, is reason enough to support this legislation. The likelihood of also being able to secure Americans' identity, financial holdings, credit lines and reputations makes it even more important to do so," Davis said.

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