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By Eric Stirgus July 17, 2012

House speaker says 9/11 regulations led to new Georgia guidelines

If you’ve had to renew your driver’s license lately, you know by now not to leave the engine running because you’ll likely have to wait.

There’ve been scores of news accounts in recent weeks about Georgians waiting in long lines to renew their license, thanks to new rules that took effect earlier this month requiring drivers to present more personal records to confirm their identity.

So who’s to blame for this new round of regulation? Many drivers have pointed their fingers toward the state Department of Driver Services.

David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, told reporters he was disappointed how the state agency prepared for the changes. However, the Republican lawmaker from Blue Ridge offered an explanation for the new regulations that suggested it is beyond the state’s control.

Many of the changes that the state made were required by federal law, so state lawmakers' hands were tied, Ralston said, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Ralston’s spokesman, Marshall Guest, confirmed that’s what his boss said and suggested some paths for us to use to find more details.

PolitiFact Georgia wondered if the speaker was correct, or was he incorrectly designating the new level of bureaucracy to the wrong people?

Georgia DDS officials say the changes were necessitated by a 2005 law passed by Congress called the Real ID Act.

The act, which took effect three years after it passed, says that federal agencies may not accept a driver’s license or other state-issued forms of identification, unless the state meets rules under the federal law to verify the person’s identity. The act says a driver’s license should include the person’s full legal name, date of birth, gender, picture, driver’s license number, address, signature and physical features.

The federal government has specific guidelines about what it requires from states, and Georgia says it is trying to follow suit. States should require a person to present a document without a photo that contains the driver’s full legal name and date of birth and Social Security number, the federal law says.

The Real ID Act was passed as part of a Homeland Security measure after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  

States were given the opportunity to get an extension to comply with the law. In 2007, the Georgia Legislature passed Senate Bill 5, which delayed implementation of the federal law until the governor felt comfortable the law would protect Georgians from identity theft. The state bill expressed concerns that the federal law would cost states $11 billion over the first five years of the program and that the federal government had not provided any money for its implementation. The state bill also mentioned worries that the federal law didn’t mention protections for information privacy or data security.

Since 2007, state DDS officials have been working to meet the federal guidelines under the Real ID Act in phases. This May, Gov. Nathan Deal’s office announced it had created a system called SecureID that will protect Georgians from identity theft and comply with the Real ID Act.

"This program will give Georgians the most secure IDs we’ve ever issued in this state," Deal said in a press release. "It is our duty to protect our residents’ identities to the best of our ability."

So now, you’ll need proof of your full legal name, Social Security number and address to renew your driver’s license.

It may not comfort some motorists as they stand in line to renew their license, but the new guidelines do come from the federal law passed in 2005. We rate Ralston’s statement as True.

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Our Sources

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, "GOP leaders blame license woes on state department," July 10, 2012

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "To license renewal, take three forms of ID," July 3, 2012

Email from Georgia Department of Driver Services spokeswoman Susan Sports, July 10, 2012

Georgia Senate Bill 5, 2007-2008 term

Gov. Nathan Deal press release on SecureID program

Telephone interview with Marshall Guest, spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, July 11, 2012

The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005

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House speaker says 9/11 regulations led to new Georgia guidelines

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