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Ducey: Leaders will resolve problem with licenses and REAL ID Act

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PHOENIX – On his trip through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Monday, an Arizona driver’s license sufficed as identification for Hamilton Baiden.

Unless something changes, however, come next year Baiden and other Arizonans will have to present a passport to catch flights and enter secure federal buildings. That’s because Arizona driver’s licenses don’t comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005.

“It would have been bad because my passport has expired,” Baiden said. “I’d better get busy.”

A passport renewal costs $60, and first-time applicants pay $135.

State Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, tried to address the situation with a bill to create a REAL ID-compliant license that Arizonans could purchase for $15. It won Senate approval but wasn’t assigned to a House committee in time to be considered this session.

That leaves Arizonans staring at Jan. 19, 2016, when driver’s licenses that don’t comply with federal law will no longer be sufficient at airports.

Baiden said he wouldn’t mind paying the $15.

“If it makes the United States a safer country, I am all for it,” he said.

A 2008 law signed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano bars Arizona from complying with the Real ID Act. Napolitano called the law an unfunded mandate, and opponents including the ACLU also raised privacy concerns.

Arizona is one of five states in this situation. The others are Idaho, Illinois, New Hampshire and Washington.

David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for the District of Arizona, said Arizona and the other states are disobeying the federal law.

“The law was passed in 2005 and was supposed to be implemented by now but keeps getting extended because there are a handful of states that have still not accepted or implemented Real ID,” he said.

Gonzales said it will be tougher for Arizonans to travel because they will need to get a passport, a process that can take up to two months.

“The biggest issue is that now, just to travel within the United States, you will need a passport,” he said.

Besides airports, Arizonans won’t be allowed into federal buildings or facilities without the proper identification. The exception will be federal courts, where a driver’s license will still be enough.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday he’s only recently been briefed on the situation but is confident state leaders can address it.

“Yesterday was the first time I heard about it. I had a quick briefing about it this morning,” Ducey said after briefing the State Board of Education on his education agenda.

Worsley didn’t return a phone message Monday but told Cronkite News earlier this month that many Arizonans mistakenly feared that the federal government wanted to create a national ID card feeding into a central database. He said Arizonans deserved the option of purchasing driver’s licenses complying with the law.

At Sky Harbor, frequent traveler Anessa Alderman said she wants clarification about what identification she will need to avoid problems.

“I travel a lot for business, and I don’t want to have any reason to be late or miss my flights because I don’t have the proper documentation,” she said. “I think it will be a challenge.”