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Editorial: Mass. missteps with REAL ID

Nine years ago, Congress passed the Real ID Act and it became law ... but then things started to unravel.

The idea was to make sure that when a person presented a driver’s license anywhere in the country, it confirmed their identity.

But that hasn’t happened.

Both the federal government and that states have had a hard time getting their act together. On the federal side, the Department of Homeland Security put off enforcing the requirement that drivers’ licenses contain particular specific information, regardless of the state issuing the license, and that the data be carefully confirmed before the license is issued.

Meanwhile, some of states — including Massachusetts — balked at complying, arguing that the cost of following these rules and reissuing licenses or non-drivers ID cards was too high. Some also had privacy concerns about the storage of personal information in a national database.

Finally, earlier this year, Homeland Security announced that it would begin enforcing the law starting in April.

That meant that residents of states not in compliance began to find that their existing driver’s license wouldn’t always work as identification in certain federal facilities or programs.

For example, Susan Podziba, a public policy mediator from Brookline, was unable to enter the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters, forcing her to hold a meeting in a cafeteria outside the security gate.

“It was like wow! I am a U.S. citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough?” she told the Boston Globe.

Being denied access to particular federal buildings, however, is just one place where Massachusetts residents could get caught. In the not too distant future, a compliant driver’s license will be required if you’re planning to fly on commercial airline flights.

If what’s happening now isn’t a reality check, just wait until a Baystater can’t fly to Florida for a vacation!

The question now is what have Massachusetts politicians and officials been doing for the past nine years, rather than making sure our state documents meet federal requirements?

Not much, apparently.

So now Massachusetts has to ask for an extension.

This needs to be resolved ... and quickly.

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