Six-year-old legislative action coming back to haunt Arizonans - FOX Carolina 21

Six-year-old legislative action coming back to haunt Arizonans

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A decision Arizona leaders made six years ago is coming back to haunt the state.

Starting Monday, an Arizona driver's license, was not good enough to get you into nuclear power plants or into restricted areas of federal buildings.

More restrictions are being phased in.

In January Arizonans won't be able to get into federal buildings that screen people as they enter.

Restrictions on airline travel will begin as early as 2016.

It will mean Arizonans won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get on an airliner.

These are some of the effects of Arizona's 2008 decision to opt out of the federal Real ID Act, a law meant to make it harder for terrorists to obtain fake I-Ds.

We were one of 11 states that said no to participating in Real ID because of privacy concerns.

The cost also was cited as a concern even though, at the time, the federal government was giving grants to states to help pay for the transition to Real ID.

When all of the restrictions are in place, Arizonans will need a passport or other federally-approved ID to do what people in 39 other states can do with their driver's licenses.

For now, you still can use your Arizona driver's license to get on an airliner, to get into certain federal buildings, basically to use it as ID at federal facilities and through security screening areas.

The 9-11 Commission recommended the federal Real ID law.

We talked with two Tucson legislators who say, though it may be expensive, Arizona has to sign on to Real ID.

They say not doing so will make it hard on everyone.

"Yes. It's harder on citizens. It's more difficult to attract businesses. It's counter-productive. It doesn't make sense. It should never have passed. We need to fix it and we need to do it really quickly," says Tucson Democratic Representative Bruce Wheeler.

Tucson Republican Representative Ethan Orr says, "It keeps Arizonans safe. It keeps our country safe and it really--it's a way of protecting the privacy and also making it more convenient for them. We shouldn't have to have a federally-issued I-D every time we step upon a plane--which is going to happen in a couple of years, if we don't solve the problem."

The federal government no longer is offering states money to help them comply with Real ID.

"The federal government, in 2008, when we first had the opportunity to opt into the program, did provide money. There's no federal money available at this point. So we're going to have to absorb that money from our fund, which is going to be painful," says Orr, who also says he plans to introduce legislation to deal with the Real ID issue.

Wheeler says there may be a way to lower the cost to comply with Real ID, but it probably still will be expensive and legislators don't know yet where the money will come from.

"If we are unable to successfully negotiate with the federal government to give us the extension that we need, or to comply without having an onerous cost on us, then, yes, it's going to be a cost. And right now no one seems to know, but you better believe that it's over five million to 10, 15 million dollars. Right now the numbers are running wildly," Wheeler says.

Arizona recently implemented a new way to get a driver's license that is intended to be more secure to safeguard personal information, but it's still not compliant with the federal Real ID Act. 

We have made a request for comment from Governor Jan Brewer's office, but have not heard back yet.

To learn more about Real ID and when the federal government will no longer accept Arizona driver's licenses as ID, and will start requiring a passport or other document to fly or to get into federal buildings, click here.

To read the Real ID Act, click here.

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