Eye On Boise

Gov. Otter rails against bill he co-sponsored in Congress

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter took on the “RealID” act of 2005 today, describing it as a “terrible idea” that came from his own Republican Party, a $39 million boondoggle for the state of Idaho and akin to the original Patriot Act, which he opposed. “This beats it all,” he told the Boise City Club.

Otter acknowledged that he voted for the bill when he was a congressman, and said initially, it didn’t sound like it’d much affect Idaho. The reason? It sought to require certain information to be on every driver’s license, and Otter said he determined that Idaho already had that information on all state driver’s licenses. But he said he didn’t realize that extensive changes would be required, including the re-issuing of every Idaho driver’s license at a cost of $39 million, and another $4 million a year cost to the state to maintain the new system. “It’s $39 million, quite frankly, that I think we could use in the education system, or I’d put that into the endowment for scholarships,” Otter said.

Otter was one of 140 co-sponsors of HR 418 in 2005, according to congressional records. He said his initial information gave him no pause. “It was kinda like I’m giving ‘em the sleeves out of my vest – I can go ahead and vote for that,” he said. “Well, the devil is in the details.”

If Idaho doesn’t comply, its residents won’t be able to get into federal facilities or even onto airplanes by using their driver’s licenses as ID, he said. Those who have a passport, however, would be OK. “I got to thinking, 39 million bucks – I could almost buy everybody in Idaho a passport rather than go through that 39 million bucks,” the governor said.

The Idaho Legislature already has spoken out against the federal requirement. The House on Tuesday passed a non-binding memorial to Congress on a unanimous, 69-0 vote, opposing the RealID plan as an “unfunded mandate” and a “backdoor attempt to institute a national ID card.” The measure is now pending in the state Senate. Read the full story here in The Spokesman-Review.




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