Maine AG Steven Rowe spoke Monday at the National Association of Attorneys General spring meeting. (Photo by Jason Turner)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe's position on the REAL ID Act of 2005 couldn't have been any clearer Monday during the National Association of Attorneys General spring meeting.
"There's a better way to do this," Rowe said. "Federalism is great, it's been great for 200 years. But I don't think this is the answer."
The attorneys general, as part of their 10th amendment power, can challenge any federal law, and Rowe's state has passed measures attempting to prevent implementation of the REAL ID Act.
The act would provide a federal identification card that would be required to board a commercial flight or enter a federal building and is designed to help fight terrorism.
Critics say it is an underfunded demand placed on the states by the federal government, and Rowe claims it will cost taxpayers in his state $185 million. Richard Barth, the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Policy of the Department of Homeland Security, said $23 billion would be spent in the next 10 years if the states agreed to implement the act.
Rowe also said that having a national database would be "one-stop shopping" for identity thieves.
Critics of activist attorneys general may have found the role-reversal amusing, arguing that state attorneys general have been imposing laws with federal ramifications for years without federal approval.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute points to 1998's Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that, it believes, effectively created a new tax on cigarette sales.
At the beginning of his speech, Barth looked around the room to see that many of those who attended the previous panel discussion on the Adam Walsh Act were not in their seats and jokingly considered it a good thing.
"The less in attendance on your part means I may not be sued as much," he said.