Jindal’s inaction restricts the freedom of Louisiana residents

Kathryne LeBell, Views Editor

The following is an opinion article, and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Starting January 1, 2016, Louisiana state IDs will be useless in federal spaces- most importantly, airports. Due to a veto on Governor Bobby Jindal’s part, Louisiana residents will not be able to travel (even domestically) without a passport. This restriction accentuates a severe disconnect between the state government and it’s people, serving only to make life more difficult for the people it affects. 

In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the REAL ID Act, a policy designed to prevent a reoccurrence of 9/11 through stricter identification procedures. Intended to go into effect in 2008, the Act was delayed with actual implementation across the states not beginning until December 2013.

Under the Act, stricter requirements on state-issued identification have been applied, many simply being integrated into pre-existing identification templates. These requirements include more forms of identification when applying for an ID and additional security measures to prevent tampering or duplication. These requirements are to be nationally enacted by January 2016 and though most states are now in compliance, four of them, including Louisiana, are not.

For Louisiana residents, this means that access to many federal buildings and all air travel will require a passport. For residents not already in possession of one, this can cost around $110, three times the cost of a driver’s license, the only requirement for the residents of other states.

Unsurprisingly, this issue leads back to Governor Bobby Jindal. In 2014, the Louisiana State Legislature passed a law implementing the REAL ID Act, but it was vetoed at the governor’s level. Passing such a law seems like a no-brainer; it would tighten up identification across the board for Louisiana residents and uphold standards already in place in the majority of the country. Addressing existing concerns, residents could even choose to opt out of the enhanced measures and just apply for the traditional Louisiana driver’s license.

Rather than passing the compliance law, the state government under Jindal applied for a waiver extending the deadline and plans to do so again.

Backed by conservative groups, Jindal claimed in a press statement that the new IDs “compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty over what is fundamentally a state method of identification.” They believe that federally-issued identification invites unnecessary federal oversight, with potentially long-reaching consequences for Louisiana citizens.

These consequences associated with big government snooping and loss of states’ rights seem irrelevant compared to Louisiana residents not having access to domestic travel and federal buildings, many of which only accept the new REAL ID-certified photo identification. It’s a decision that was made by those not affected by it. Less than half of U.S. residents have a passport, with only 30 percent of Louisianans having one. As anyone who has applied for one knows, the process is not easy, cheap or timely and poses nothing but an inconvenience for people who are not even trying to leave the country.

Besides a passport, Louisiana residents can apply for a passport card, which is the next cheapest option at $55 and allows for travel to Canada and Mexico. But this issue bespeaks a lot more than just finding a way around Transportation Security Administration requirements — it points out the existing and worsening relationship between the Louisiana state government and its people. It is Jindal’s job to represent the interest of the state population, something that he has explicitly failed to do in this matter.