Regarding HB 1582 an act prohibiting New Hampshire from participating
in a national identification card system

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Chairman Roberge, Vice Chairman Hassan, and Members of theCommittee:

It is a pleasure to speak with you today about HB 1582. Ibelieve this to be nation-leading legislation to refuse NewHampshire's participation in the national ID system created by thefederal REAL ID Act.

I am director of information policy studies at the CatoInstitute in Washington, D.C., a think-tank dedicated to ournation's founding principles of freedom, limited government, andpeace. Though I speak only for myself today, I am also a member ofthe U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy andIntegrity Advisory Committee. In addition, I edit Web-based privacythink-tank Privacilla.org and maintain an online resource aboutfederal spending called WashingtonWatch.com.

A national ID is anathema to the values of New Hampshirites andall Americans. The stirring debate in the New Hampshire House andthe strong vote for HB 1582 taken in that body reflects this.

Americans and New Hampshirites should be free to go about theirlawful business without being asked to identify themselves atgovernment checkpoints. We are increasingly seeing this freedomrestricted. New Hampshire's participation in the REAL ID Act woulddiminish Americans' and New Hampshirites' ability to go where theywant, and do what they want, free of interference by governmentalauthorities.

Having a national ID would promote a surveillance society thatwe should all dread. It would also make it even easier for identityfraudsters to ply their trade. Though we live in one of the freestcountries in the world, we should be vigilant against a national IDbecause of the role national identification programs have playedhistorically in the evils of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union,apartheid South Africa, and even Rwanda during that country'srecent genocide.

Speaking practically, I understand that a major concern withthis legislation is that it may prevent New Hampshire fromaccepting a $3 million federal grant to aid with the cost ofimplementing REAL ID. I want to caution you against accepting thisgrant or agreeing to participate in the federal national IDprogram. Doing so may commit New Hampshire to a far largerexpenditure with no guarantee of support from the federalgovernment.

The decision you are making with HB 1582 is not whether you willreceive $3 million in federal funds, but whether you will spend tentimes that to participate in the national ID system. Estimates froma variety of states and groups show that the costs to New Hampshirefrom implementing the REAL ID Act could range from substantial tostaggering:

  • Virginia Governor Mark Warner's Task Force on the Real ID Actestimated start-up costs if Virginia participated in REAL IDranging from $35 million to $169 million, and recurring costs from$1 million to $63 million per year. The Task Force expressed doubtsthat federal funds would cover all the costs of implementing theREAL ID Act.
  • The budget director of Washington state's Department ofLicensing has estimated that his state might need to spend $97million during the next two years should it implement REAL ID.
  • In a broader study, the National Conference of StateLegislatures estimated that it would cost $9 billion nationwide forstates to implement the REAL ID Act.
  • Taxpayer group Citizens Against Government Waste has estimatedcosts as high as $15 billion dollars for full implementation of theREAL ID Act. This would push the cost of a driver's license fromthe $10-$25 range up to $90 or more.

Though $3 million dollars is a significant amount in any state,it pales in comparison to the open-ended obligation you will incurif you agree to participate in the REAL ID Act - all for theprivilege of conscripting New Hampshirites into a nationalidentification and surveillance system. This is why HB 1582 is suchimportant legislation.

Because it is one of the first states to be offered a token offederal support for REAL ID compliance, New Hampshire will be anational leader one way or another. It may set the standard forprotection of freedom, civil liberties, and privacy. Or it maybecome a premier example of how a state legislature becomes aservant of the federal government.

If HB 1582 does not pass, New Hampshirites will pay more moneyfor drivers' licenses, through higher state taxes, higher federaltaxes, and higher fees at the Division of Motor Vehicles, not tomention inconvenience and delay. And, over time, they will findthemselves asked more and more often to show their nationalidentification cards as they go about their lives.

If HB 1582 passes, New Hampshirites will save money and time.They will be better protected from creeping, increasingsurveillance. And the federal government will not hold to thethreat in the REAL ID Act that citizens of entire states might beexcluded from federal facilities, federally regulated aircraft, andother areas and infrastructure. Congress and the Department ofHomeland Security would be overwhelmed by the constitutional,legal, and practical difficulties of trying to carry out theblackmail scheme created by the REAL ID Act.

New Hampshire truckers will be able to work as they do now. Theargument that trucking would be impacted by REAL ID simply "doesnot compute." The REAL ID Act makes no mention of the CommercialDriver's License system. Trucking is subject to an entirelyseparate system, the Transportation Worker Identity Card. Only abizarre stretch of the REAL ID Act could capture truckers. And,again, the federal government will not follow through on the threatposed by the REAL ID Act.

I have just completed a book on identification called IdentityCrisis: How Identification if Overused and Misunderstood, to bepublished next month. I have studied identification and identitycards carefully, and I want you to know that a national ID isneither a protection from terrorism nor a response to the attacksof September 11, 2001. A national ID would satisfy the federalgovernment's demand for control - not Americans' genuine need forsecurity and law enforcement.

If the New Hampshire Senate stands up for its citizens bypassing HB 1582, it will lead the movement among states that areready to do the same. Together, they will force the national IDissue back to the federal level.

If Congress wants a national ID, the U.S. House and Senateshould be forced to create, implement, and pay for it themselves.They should be forced to take an up-or-down vote on a national ID,something that did not happen when the REAL ID Act was passed aspart of a military spending bill.

In HB 1582, you have a wonderful opportunity to stand up for NewHampshirites and refuse your state's participation in the nationalidentification card system. You can show why New Hampshire isrightly regarded as a bellwether state for freedom, civilliberties, and privacy.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my views.

Jim Harper

New Hampshire State Senate Committee on Public and Municipal Affairs