AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill that will put Maine on track to complying with federal Real ID standards and avoiding problems for Mainers accessing federal facilities or boarding domestic flights.

LePage, who had urged the Legislature to quickly pass LD 306, made the announcement Friday morning.

“It is in the best interest of Mainers for state officials to unite in going forward with Real ID implementation,” LePage said in a news release.

Enactment of the bill means that after the state is set up for Real ID, Mainers will receive Real ID-compliant licenses as their current licenses expire — though there is an opt-out clause in the bill for anyone who doesn’t want to go through the new security measures or receive a compliant license.

Conversely, after Maine’s Real ID system is set up, anyone can receive a compliant license at any time, even before their current license or ID card expires.

The new security measures include background checks for employees and having birth certificates, Social Security numbers and information about certain medical conditions kept in a state-owned database.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Maine will apply for a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security by Monday at the latest that would allow current licenses or ID cards to be used to board flights or access federal facilities until 2020. After that, a Real ID-compliant licenses or a passport will be required.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, a former Maine secretary of state, requires the secretary of state and Bureau of Motor Vehicles to begin a range of compliance measures, including facial recognition or fingerprint technology to produce a driver’s license or nondriver identification card. Dunlap estimated that it will take about a year to implement the new process, though he said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could make changes.

“The nature of the rules around Real ID enable homeland security to change how they do this at any time,” said Dunlap.

The bill also cancels certain exemptions from the requirement of documenting legal presence in the United States for a licence or ID card renewal, though in general Maine has required proof of legal presence for several years.

The bill appropriates $344,000 in the next fiscal year, $851,000 in the year after that and more than $1.1 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 for compliance costs.

Dunlap said that nearly half of all states are not in compliance with Real ID requirements but that Maine is one of only five states that have laws on the books specifically forbidding Real ID compliance. Maine enacted that law in 2007 — with unanimous support in the Legislature — because of concerns about privacy infringements. Maine was the first state to do that, which Dunlap says is why he suspects the federal government has been giving the state a hard time.

“Maine was the first state to opt out and we’ve always had to pay an extra pound of flesh for that,” said Dunlap, who has long opposed Real ID compliance. “While many states were granted the waiver, Maine had to amend its statutes in several different directions. I think they’ve been trying to make an example out of the state for a long time and I don’t know why people aren’t furious about it.”

Diamond said that by enacting his bill, Maine has “dodged a bullet.”

“Noncompliance with Real ID has created unnecessary inconveniences for Mainers, especially our veterans, and now we are able to move forward,” he said.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.