Louisiana residents who never travel out of the country don't have much use for a passport, but that will soon change early next year.
Beginning in January, Louisiana will join 26 other states that will require a passport for entry into federal buildings and all commercial flights, no matter their destination. The change stems from the 2005 "Real ID" law, which went into effect in 2008. The bill paved the way for a universal identification system across the country, but several states including Louisiana opted out of the program.
Louisiana State Representative Brett Geymann co-authored a state bill excluding Louisiana from the federal law.
"Your driver's license would essentially become an ID number that could be swiped and scanned on either a federal building, bank, getting on or boarding an airplane," Geymann said. "We were very concerned about identity theft, the privacy, who was going to be capturing the data and who would have their hands on that information that would be very personal."
Geymann's concern was also felt by 26 other states. As of June, more than half of states have passed legislation opposing some portion of the "Real ID" law.
"I think the intentions were good but with that bill comes a lot of infringement on our privacy as individual citizens and the freedom's that we have," Geymann said. "When we weighed those two out we just don't like that,... we would just not participate."
Effective Jan. 15, 2013, Congress is buckling down and enforcing the law and imposing consequences for the states who don't follow. Since states that opted out of the law will not utilize a government managed universal identification system, standard state ID's won't be acceptable in federal buildings in Louisiana or for travelers originating out of Louisiana airports.
"As a Louisiana citizen, as we travel about and do business in federal buildings, we will perhaps have to have some other form of identification since our driver's license will not be acting as our real ID," Geymann said.
The change is expected to take effect Jan. 15 and will the hundreds of thousands of people who fly out of Lake Charles Regional Airport every year.
"We've got about 120,000 passengers that come through on a yearly basis," Lake Charles Regional Airport Executive Director Heath Allen said. "That's both departing and arriving into Lake Charles."
The news comes weeks after the only location in Lake Charles to apply for a passport stopped offering the service. While Calcasieu Parish officials are working to add passports to their menu of services, the nearest location right now is in Bell City.