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DHS Tells Pennsylvania to Meet REAL ID Requirements; Other States Told the Same

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified Pennsylvania that if state residents driver’s licenses and IDs are not in full compliance with REAL ID requirements, they will face new restrictions gaining admittance to federal facilities in January.

As a result, effective Jan. 30, 2017, Pennsylvania residents will need an alternative, secure form of identification to gain admittance to all federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants. The only exception is admittance to federal facilities for the purpose of applying for or receiving federal benefits. Each federal agency determines which secure identification it will accept.

DHS said if Pennsylvania does not come into compliance by Jan 22, 2018 (or is not granted an extension), its residents will need to present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration to board a commercial flight.

If a state or territory does not receive a new extension, federal agencies may not accept licenses and identification cards issued by these states and territories beginning January 30, 2017.

In 2012, Pennsylvania’s Legislature passed Act 38, which bars the Governor or PennDOT from participating in REAL ID. According to a press release, “DHS had been granting states not in compliance a series of extensions, but announced in its Oct. 11 letter to PennDOT that no further extensions will be granted unless there are new developments or information provided on why standards remain unmet and the reasons for continued noncompliance.”

"PennDOT has always focused on providing a secure driver’s license and supporting process and we already have made additional improvements," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. "In large measure, we are out of compliance for limited technical reasons and because existing state law bars us from fully complying. While we understand frustration with the cost of this unfunded federal mandate, our failure to comply because of the prohibition of current law will be a burden for Pennsylvanians."

The press release issued by PennDOT said, “If the [state] legislature would agree to lift the compliance ban, PennDOT would need time to make significant additional system changes to accommodate a fully compliant REAL ID process.”

Oklahoma finds itself in a similar situation. In 2007, the state legislature passed a law prohibiting the state with complyingwith the Real ID Act. State Sen. David Holt introduced a bill that would have repealed parts of the 2007 law forbiding Oklahoma from complying with Real ID. It was never passed.

Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said the state has an extension until the end of the month, but the second grant extension was rejected by DHS last week.

DHS announced December 20, 2013, a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act, as passed by Congress, that will implement REAL ID “in a measured, fair and responsible way.”

DHS made clear at the time that, “For states and territories whose extensions expired on October 10, 2016, and were not renewed, federal agencies may continue to accept driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by these states and territories for official purposes until January 30, 2017 in order to provide the opportunity for states and territories to take corrective action or for its residents to prepare for the change.”

According to DHS, “States and other jurisdictions have made significant progress in enhancing the security of their licenses over the last number of years. As a result, approximately 90 percent of all US drivers hold licenses from jurisdictions determined to meet REAL ID standards or that have received extensions. Individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before.”

The following states remain noncompliant and have not been granted a renewed extension and will be subject to REAL ID enforcement following a short grace period:

  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina

The following states did not receive an extension for 2016 or 2017.  “Therefore,” DHS said, “they continue to be subject to current enforcement activities. Federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from these states:

  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Washington

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The legislation established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting REAL ID’s minimum standards.

DHS said, “The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.”

A list of the current statuses of states and territories can be found here.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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