COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina joined Maine, New Hampshire and other states on Wednesday as it formally rejected a federal mandate that sets new national driver’s license standards.

Gov. Mark Sanford signed a bill into law that says the state will not participate in the federal act because it costs taxpayers too much and would create long lines at Department of Motor Vehicle offices.

“If the federal government wants stricter ID standards, they should leave it to the states to come up with a way to implement them that works best for each individual state,” Sanford said in a statement after signing the bill at a Greenville DMV office. “Until this top-down federal mandate is changed, South Carolina is going to continue to stand against joining this program.”

South Carolina became the fifth state to refuse to participate in the federal 2005 REAL-ID Act, joining Montana, Washington, Oklahoma and Maine. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is expected to sign a similar bill that was sent to his desk last week.

At least a dozen more states have passed measures opposing the law and urging Congress to repeal it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It just can’t work,” said state Sen. Larry Martin, the chief sponsor of South Carolina’s bill. “It is the most bizarre thing I’ve seen our Congress do.”

The federal act, a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, requires states to link their record-keeping systems to national databases. Critics complain it amounts to a national ID card, could promote identity theft and costs too much.

It’s estimated to cost states $11 billion to implement, according to the legislative conference. The initial price tag for South Carolina would be $25 million, then $11 million yearly.

To get the new license, drivers must show up in person and provide an original birth certificate and other documents. The paperwork would have to be authenticated and scanned for electronic storage, which some say would be too timely.

Martin, R-Pickens, said there was no practical way to verify every out-of-state birth certificates, and many elderly drivers don’t have the original documents.

As of January, there were 3.1 million licensed drivers in South Carolina, according to the DMV.

“A total breakdown of services at local DMV offices would no doubt occur if we tried to comply,” Martin said.

The federal law says driver’s licenses that do not meet the national standard will not be accepted as identification to board an airplane or enter a federal building.

But bowing to the demands of the nation’s governors and Congress, the Bush administration agreed earlier this year to give states an extra year and a half to comply. The new deadline is Dec. 31, 2009.

Martin said he hopes Congress will ease the requirements before then.

“I just don’t believe Congress can allow that type of disruption in interstate commerce to occur,” he said. “We’re not the only state to refuse. If we were, I’d be nervous.”

AP-ES-06-14-07 0718EDT

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