BY FRANK DAVIES
WASHINGTON - Getting or renewing a driver's license would take more time and effort under a security measure approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. The Senate is expected to pass a similar measure next week.
National standards for driver's licenses will discourage illegal immigration and make it harder for terrorists to get documents to evade security, supporters of the bill said. Critics, including some state officials, said the new requirements would be burdensome and expensive, won't enhance security and are a step toward a national ID card.
The license provision is part of an $82 billion special spending bill, with $75.9 billion going to the armed forces for Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas missions. It passed the House 368-58.
Those licensing provisions weren't controversial. But the driver's license requirements and other immigration-related measures drew criticism from immigration advocates and some state officials who said the provisions were included without hearings. By attaching those provisions to a must-pass spending bill, House Republican leaders ''are shoving these extreme measures down our throats,'' said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
She said it was an ''underhanded attempt'' toward establishing a national ID card by setting standards for licenses and requiring states to share data.
Applicants for driver's licenses would have to show proof of citizenship or legal residency, document a home address and provide a photo ID. State motor vehicle departments would have to verify the documents using federal databases, which could end same-day renewals. States would have three years to comply with these requirements.
If a state didn't comply, its licenses wouldn't be allowed to be used as identification for boarding planes or entering federal buildings. Proponents of the bill, led by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the tighter requirements, dubbed ''Real ID,'' were a common-sense security measure worth any extra cost. But state officials are wary of the cost. States issue or renew about 70 million licenses a year, and the new requirements could cost $100 million a year, said Cheye Calvo, of the National Conference of State Legislatures.