One country, one card, one hearing

The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal for states to enhance driver's licenses and identification cards to minimum standards. DHS publishes the proposed rule and a questions and answers page on their website.

The Bee writes [my emphasis]:
On Tuesday, both sides will have their say when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security holds the nation's only public hearing on the 2005 Real ID Act [P.L. 109-13] on the campus of the University of California, Davis.

State officials from throughout the nation are scheduled to attend the four-hour town hall meeting, which begins at 10 a.m in Freeborn Hall.
Considered by many to be a de facto national identity card, Real ID further alarms with the threat of pervasive ID theft and the all too real, staggering costs to states to implement such a system.
It's uncertain where the money will come from. The Real ID Act allows states to use some of their homeland security funding, but critics say this would increase vulnerability elsewhere.
On February 28, U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and John Sununu, R-N.H. introduced legislation (S. 717) that would repeal the Real ID Act's requirement for nationally standardized driver's license data and systems.
To repeal title II of the REAL ID Act of 2005, to restore section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which provides States additional regulatory flexibility and funding authorization to more rapidly produce tamper- and counterfeit-resistant driver's licenses, and to protect privacy and civil liberties by providing interested stakeholders on a negotiated rulemaking with guidance to achieve improved 21st century licenses to improve national security.

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Recent GAO reports

CLIMATE CHANGE: Financial Risks to Federal and Private Insurers in Coming Decades are Potentially Significant GAO-07-760T (pdf, 22pp/272kB), April 19, 2007

The above testimony was based on the report below that was released on the same date:

CLIMATE CHANGE: Financial Risks to Federal and Private Insurers in Coming Decades Are Potentially Significant, GAO-07-285 (pdf, 74pp/1.3MB), March 16, 2007

Insurance costs of most weather-related damages are borne by private insurers and two federal programs: the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). For this report, GAO was asked to (1) describe how climate change may affect future weather-related losses, (2) determine past insured weather-related losses, and (3) determine what major private insurers and federal insurers are doing to prepare for potential increases in such losses.

ELECTIONS: All Levels of Government Are Needed to Address Electronic Voting System Challenges, GAO-07-741T (pdf, 55pp/852kB), April 18, 2007

GAO addresses four issues relating to voting systems: (1) contextual role and characteristics of electronic voting systems, (2) security and reliability concerns reported about these systems, (3) experiences and management practices of states and local jusrisdictions regarding these systems, and (4) longstanding and emerging intergovernmental challenges using these systems.

Discusses the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 which, among other things, established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for election reform.

TITLE INSURANCE: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of the Title Industry and Better Protect Consumers, GAO-07-401 (pdf, 74pp/1.25MB), April 13, 2007

The report examines (1) the characteristics of title insurance markets across states, (2) factors influencing competition and prices within those markets, and (3) the current regulatory environment and planned regulatory changes.

GAO reviewed laws and market practices in 6 states: California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, New York, and Texas.

OLDER DRIVER SAFETY: Knowledge Sharing Should Help States Prepare for Increase in Older Driver Population, GAO-07-413 (pdf, 60pp/3.6MB), April 11, 2007

GAO looks at (1) federal government actions in promoting practices to make roads safer for older drivers and states' implementation of those practices, (2) states' assessment of fitness of older drivers and the support provided by the federal government, and (3) initiatives selected states have implemented for older driver safety. Case studies were done in 6 states considered progressive in improving older driver safety--California, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, and Oregon.

FIRST RESPONDERS: Much Work Remains to Improve Communications Interoperability, GAO-07-301 (pdf, 75pp/1.5MB), April 2, 2007

In this report, communications interoperability refers to "the capability of different electronic communications systems to readily connect with each other and thus enable timely communications." Communications interoperability among first responders (emergency personnel such as firefighters, police officers, and ambulance services) is vital. From 2003 through 2005, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) granted $2.15 billion in funding to states and localities to improve communications interoperability.

GAO's objectives in this study were to determine (1) how much DHS funding and technical assistance have helped to improve interoperable communications in selected states, and (2) the progress made in the development and implementation of interoperable communications standards.

Discusses the SAFECOM program of DHS, which provides interoperability assistance to emergency response agencies, and Project 25 (Wikipedia), a set of national standards for radio communications.

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Global storm

Charged with finding the top ten actions federal policymakers could take to insure that America can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the new world technology of the 21st century, the National Academies found the necessary technological and scientific building blocks seriously eroding.

"A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas [the marketplace, science and technology] so that the nation will consistently gain from the opportunities offered by rapid globalization," says a new report published by the National Academies Press (NAP).

Some of their recommendations include:
  • Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education.
  • Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research.
  • Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the United States and abroad.
  • Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.

As reported in earlier FR posts, states have already begun the conversation focusing on the need for an educated and world aware citizenry .

Rising Above The Gathering Storm:
Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future

(2007, 590 pages, Open Book, NAP)

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Juvenile justice in Congress

Anticipating that Congress will consider the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has prepared a report on the subject.

Originally enacted in 1974, P.L. 93-415, JJDPA was last reauthorized in 2002 by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, P.L. 107-273 (pdf), Division C, Title II, Subtitle B. As CRS reports, juvenile justice is primarily the domain of the states. JJDPA created the federal agencies and grant programs to assist states' juvenile justice systems, and established core mandates for states to receive grant funding.

CRS sees the following as potential issues in JJDPA's reauthorization:
  • Rehabilitation versus accountability
  • Expanding or modifying the core mandates
  • Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Block Grant
  • Overlap in grant programs
  • Coordination of federal efforts
Juvenile Justice: Legislative History and Current Legislative Issues, CRS Report RL33947 (pdf, 37pp/204kB, from Open CRS), April 2, 2007

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Unfunded mandates

One of the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) of 1995, P.L. 104-4 (pdf, 25pp/144kB), requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to inform Congress about the costs of mandates in proposed legislation. CBO has issued a report on its 2006 UMRA actions.
Under UMRA, a mandate is any provision in legislation, statute, or regulation that would impose an enforceable duty on state, local, or tribal governments or the private sector, or that would reduce or eliminate the amount of funding authorized to cover the costs of existing mandates
Of the 321 public laws enacted in 2006, 30 contained one or more intergovernmental mandates, and 39 contained one or more private-sector mandates. Two public laws contained intergovermental mandates whose costs exceeded the statutory threshold of $64 million.

In addition to identifying mandates passed in 2006, the report gives overviews of mandate statements prepared by CBO in 2006 and mandates with above-threshold costs enacted since 1996.

A Review of CBO's Activities in 2006 Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (pdf, 72pp/592kB), April 2007

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