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Bill passes to put Montana in compliance with Real ID Act

“The fees would remain at the $25 and $50, so that we can make the loan payments and the department would only be drawing on the account as needed,” said Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, who is carrying the bill. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA — The Legislature passed a bill 83-17 Tuesday that offers a compromise on the 2005 federal “Real ID Act,” which standardizes state identification cards.

At the end of this year, a Montana driver’s license would not meet the federal standards to be used for air travel or access to federal facilities.

Senate Bill 366 would give Montanans the option of paying a fee for a special license that complies with the federal guidelines. The bill will now go to Gov. Steve Bullock.

The bill was amended in a free conference committee to allow the Department of Justice to borrow up to $4.6 million from the Board of Investments to pay for an information technology system and other costs for implementation. Under the bill, the loan would have to be paid back in 10 years.

It also appropriates $1.852 million starting this July from a state special revenue account for the Department of Justice. The amendment also includes a provision if the state receives an extension for compliance, that appropriation can be pushed back a year.

“The fees would remain at the $25 and $50, so that we can make the loan payments and the department would only be drawing on the account as needed,” said Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, who is carrying the bill.

Those prices would be lower than a passport, which Cohenour said Montanans will need to fly if the state does not comply.

“With a license renewal, $45 is added to the $25 – max is $65 on that,” Cohenour said. “And then if you’re an early implementer, you have the $10 added to the $50,” Cohenour said.

Up until this year, the state has been able to get extensions because licenses were being continually updated. This year the state’s request for an extension was denied, forcing the state to make a compromise.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.