A group of Republican lawmakers and the head of the state’s ACLU vowed Wednesday to kill a plan by Gov. Janet Napolitano to create a “technologically enhanced’’ state driver’s license.
Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, the leading foe, said the deal Napolitano inked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is a step toward totalitarianism.
“This isn’t Nazi Germany,” the senator said. “And I oppose requiring people to carry tracking devices in their pockets.”
Her comment was a reference to the fact that these licenses would have radio-frequency identification computer chips.
But Napolitano argued that the Mesa Republican lawmaker is on the political fringe.
“With all respects, you’ve got to look at who’s making the press conference,” the governor said of Johnson.
Napolitano said Johnson has an ideological bent that “doesn’t represent the majority of Arizonans.”
Napolitano also said those who fear the new license — and the data banks to which it might be linked — do not have to obtain one.
But Johnson said those who oppose the plan are not simply “paranoid.”
“I think they just value very much their privacy,” the senator said. “And although it is voluntary at the moment, once the federal government gets involved, I have no faith that it would stay voluntary.”
The verbal sparring is a precursor of what promises to be a heated fight over whether the convenience of having one of these new licenses outweighs any intrusion on privacy.
At this point Johnson and her allies may have the upper hand: Napolitano admitted she can’t fulfill her agreement with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff unless the Legislature gives the state Motor Vehicle Division permission to create a new license.
The state Senate voted last year to bar Arizona from participating in the federal government’s Real ID program, which was approved two years ago by Congress.
That law requires states to issue licenses the Department of Homeland Security believes are secure and readable by machines.
It also says that those without a Real ID-compliant license will not be able to board aircraft — even for domestic flights — or enter federal buildings.
Napolitano agreed to create an enhanced license, which would be not only evidence of ability to drive but also serve as proof of citizenship.
But that license also would have a computer chip that can be read at some distance — how far is not clear — by scanners.