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Montana law recognizes tribal IDs 4-21-07

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Brian Schweitzer has signed a bill that requires tribal identification cards to be accepted as readily as state ID cards by state agencies. It takes effect Oct. 1.
“The law is needed because of the whole matter of government-to-government cooperation and respect,” said Rep. Margaret Campbell, D-Poplar, the bill's sponsor. “Tribal governments have long recognized ID cards issued by federal and state governments, but there was a void because they weren't necessarily accepting tribal ID cards by our members. Now there will be balance.”

The law specifically lists a variety of government-related services that must now accept tribal ID cards as well as state ID cards. They include purchasing alcohol, obtaining a concealed weapon permit, registering a vehicle and buying a hunting or fishing license.

The new law does not require private businesses to accept a tribal ID card, just as there is no existing state law that requires businesses to accept a driver's license or other forms of state identification, said Greg Petesch, the Legislature's top lawyer.

However, “Nobody who is now accepting ID cards in their business should be able to discriminate on the form of ID cards they'll accept because tribal cards are now recognized by state law.”

Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said he sought the legal change after teens on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation had trouble applying for state driver's licenses.

State licensing officials were rejecting their teens' applications because they didn't have two forms of identification and the tribal ID card apparently wasn't fully recognized, he said.

Dean Roberts, administrator of the Montana Motor Vehicle Division, said the problem was cleared up two years ago when the tribes moved from laminated ID cards to a more secure one-piece, digital ID card.

Federal law allows each Indian tribe to determine what should be on its ID card, Campbell said, and most require considerably more documentation than state IDs, including Social Security number, tribal enrollment and birth certificates proving their parents' tribal heritage.

Campbell said she was surprised at how easily the bill cleared the Legislature.

Nobody testified against the bill in either its House or Senate committee hearing, Campbell said. The House approved the bill 86-13 and the Senate passed it 49-0.
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