CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State Senators challenged Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joe Miller Thursday over recent changes to the way people renew their drivers licenses in the state.
Miller appeared before the Senate Finance Committee during the Department of Transportation's annual budget hearing.
During that meeting, Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, said he has received several email complaints over the newer, more stringent policies.
Miller explained the changes were a part of the state's incorporation of the federal Real ID Act, which was passed in 2005.
The act was a post-9/11 security measure passed by Congress. It forces states to require residents to show specific documents to prove their identity and residency when they apply for a new form of identification.
Miller said Gov. Joe Manchin ordered the division to begin incorporating the provisions of the act several years ago. Some conservative members of the Legislature attempted to block the implementation in 2009, but failed.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said he recently received an email from a military serviceman who had his application for a drivers license renewal denied because he did not have a birth certificate.
Instead, the man had a "birth record," which Unger said was apparently what they called birth certificates in the man's home state of Maryland.
"This guy has top secret clearance in Pentagon and a couple other things, yet for some reason the DMV didn't feel like he qualified for a drivers license," Unger said. "Just give me a break here. ... This is ridiculous."
Miller said he found the tale unbelievable because, to the best of his knowledge, every state in the country uses a birth certificate. He challenged Unger on the facts of his story, and said he needed to be sure the man wasn't referring to a record or certificate of live birth, which is issued by a hospital and is not acceptable under the Real ID Act.
"There's a big difference between a birth certificate and certificate of live birth," Miller said. "It has to be a birth certificate with the raised seal."
Unger said that still was not a fully secure method of identification.
"I probably could buy myself a document with a raised seal that has a birth certificate on it and you all would accept it," he said. "But a document that comes from the state of Maryland with a birth record will not fly."
"You can see where all the difficultly came in with the 'acting governor' versus 'acting as governor' argument we had last year," Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, joked during Unger's questioning.
It wasn't the only joking going on during the period.
"So a certificate of live birth from a hospital is no good?" said Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam. "It's good enough to be president."