AUGUSTA — A Lewiston Democrat called out Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday for criticizing legislative inaction to help provide identification cards to veterans who need them to access federal health care facilities in New Hampshire.

“For the last eight days, an emergency bill which would solve this very issue and passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 110-8 in the House, has been sitting on the governor’s desk,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Jared Golden, who sponsored the measure.

He said he’s glad the governor “recognizes the importance of making sure nothing stands between a vet and their health care, but I hope his pen catches up with his words.”

LePage told Portland-based WGAN radio that lawmakers need to act quickly to solve the Real ID issue in order to help veterans.

“That’s another issue that is really starting to bubble up and I’ve been very concerned about, unfortunately the secretary of state and the Legislature aren’t moving fast enough to solve the Real ID problem,” the governor said during his regular weekly appearance on the station.

Golden responded by writing a personal note to LePage calling attention to his bill. He also issued a press release on the issue.

Golden, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, jumped on the issue after learning that about 500 Maine veterans couldn’t use old identification cards after Feb. 1 because of security updates that required they have IDs that complied with the Real ID law that Maine has shunned.

To address the issue, Golden determined the easiest, fastest resolution would be to buy U.S. passport cards for the southern Maine veterans who need access to the Newington, New Hampshire, base.

First-time applicants can get wallet-size passport cards for $55 each. The cards meet the federal Real ID standards and can be used to enter countries in North America.

The Legislature overwhelmingly backed the proposal and sent it to LePage for his signature last week. The Senate passed it unanimously.

If all of the veterans wind up needing a card, the solution could cost Maine taxpayers about $50,000. But chances are that at least some of the veterans already have passports or some other qualifying identification cards.

The governor has until Saturday, April 1, to take action on the bill.

State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston


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