Vermont Senate wants to delay passport plan

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(Host) The Vermont Senate wants the Bush Administration to delay the plan that will require a passport to travel into Canada.

The Department of Homeland Security says the passport plan is needed to thwart terrorists but opponents argue it will dramatically reduce cross border tourism and commerce.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Unless federal officials authorize a change, the passport plan is scheduled to go into effect for people who travel by air to Canada at the end of this year and January 1st, 2008 for people who cross the border by land.

The Bush Administration says the proposal is needed to help strengthen efforts to block terrorists from coming into this country.

The Senate resolution calls on the Department of Homeland Security to delay implementing the program until a new national drivers license plan, known as Real ID, goes into effect.

Essex Orleans senator Vincent Illuzzi says the Real ID plan could offer the kind of security that the Bush Administration is seeking.

(Illuzzi) “What I would like to see happen is a delay in the implementation of the U.S. passport plan until we actually implement the Real ID Act and then see if we need to go further and if so, do so, so we’re not duplicating as opposed to being in conflict with or adding burdens that most people won’t want to comply with that lies at the heart of the opposition here.”

(Kinzel) Last week, the Canadian consul to New England, Stan Keyes, urged Vermont lawmakers to support the delay:

(Keyes) “We know we can work together to find a solution and what we’re also asking for is that we take the time to get that solution right. And if that means going beyond the deadline of January 1st 2008 then we go beyond the deadline. I think it’s a reasonable request.”

(Kinzel) The effort to delay the passport plan also has the strong support of Governor Jim Douglas.

(Douglas) “Only 23 % of the American people have passports about 43 % of Canadians do because so much commerce across the border is spontaneous. A lot fewer people would be crossing the border to shop to attend events to go to recreational areas. I think we have to understand how limiting that would be for cross border traffic.”

(Kinzel) Because the Senate resolution is slightly different from one passed by the House, it will return to the House chamber for its consideration.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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