ANNAPOLIS – A weakened version of a state child identification program won unanimous approval Wednesday from Maryland’s House of Delegates.
The bill allows more frequent renewals for children’s state identification cards issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Allowing children’s IDs to be renewed every two years will keep the photos more current. Now the IDs expire after five years, said bill sponsor, Delegate David Rudolph, D-Cecil.
A child looks very different at age 3 than he does at age 8, Rudolph said.
The legislation now heads for the Senate.
The bill in its original form would have required the Motor Vehicle Administration to create the “Safekids Pix Program” where the administration would construct a new database for young people under 16 years, encourage Maryland parents to obtain cards for their children and allow the cards to be renewed every two years.
But Rudolph said he included the amendments after reviewing the MVA’s analysis, which projected a $3 million program expense in fiscal year 2004. The administration calculated the cost of vans, customer service agents and a new computer program.
Despite the changes, Rudolph was not disappointed with the outcome, saying the goal was to establish a way for families to have a recent photograph of the child in the event of an abduction.
“This is one more thing that parents will have to be a little more secure,” he said.
On any day in Maryland, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 reported cases of missing children, said Carla Proudfoot, director of the Maryland Center for Missing Children.
An average 14,000 Maryland children are reported missing each year and 12,000 are found, Proudfoot said.
“There’s a lot of focus right now on kidnappings by strangers,” said David L. Levy, president and CEO of child advocacy group, Children’s Rights Council.
In the most recent high-profile case, missing Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart was returned to her family alive after she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her bedroom last June.
“As long as it’s optional I would favor (the bill) to help keep photos current,” Levy said.
Nearly 20,000 children already have state ID cards, a legislative analysis showed.
Angie Linger, spokeswoman for the Motor Vehicle Administration, said it was difficult to estimate how many more families would get ID cards for their children if the law is passed.