Feds deny Kentucky's request for REAL ID extension
Without the extension sought by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, Kentuckians will need more than a state-issued driver’s license or identification card to enter some federal buildings starting early next year.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has rejected Kentucky’s request for more time to comply with the federal REAL ID law.
Without the extension sought by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, Kentuckians will need more than a state-issued driver’s license or identification card to enter some federal facilities starting early next year.
But John-Mark Hack, Kentucky's vehicle regulation commissioner, said Wednesday that residents won't see drastic changes right away.
"The sky is not falling. ... Most Kentuckians are not going to experience any impact from the denial of this extension immediately," Hack told reporters in Frankfort.
A letter to Hack from the Homeland Security department claims Kentucky "has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance" with the law. It says federal agencies will stop accepting driver's licenses from Kentucky and other states starting January 30.
Even if Kentucky remains out of compliance with the federal rules, Hack said Kentucky-issued driver's licenses and state ID cards still will be valid for visits to Social Security offices, federal courthouses and other places.
When a grace period ends in January, Kentuckians will need to use passports or other federally-approved ID documents to enter military installations such as Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. The Homeland Security department suggests visitors contact each building or site to determine what type of ID is needed.
Kentucky is one of at least three states that failed to get a one-year waiver.
If Kentucky doesn't become fully compliant with REAL ID by 2018, current driver's licenses won’t be valid to board domestic flights. A passport or other identification also would be needed.
Congress passed the REAL ID law in 2005 in response to recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. Meant to set tougher standards for driver’s licenses and state IDs, the law requires states to change how they issue those documents.
But critics claim REAL ID is an example of government overreach that collects citizens’ personal information while doing little to deter terrorism.
Hack said last week that the state has largely complied with the law. In order to fully meet the requirements of REAL ID, he said, the state must move to a system that issues driver’s licenses from a single source – rather than letting county officials do so.
He and lawmakers suggested that such a change would be a priority during the 2017 legislative session, which starts in January.
The letter denying Kentucky's extension says the state has met roughly 30 of the REAL ID requirements. Legislative approval is needed to comply with others, such as a protections to keep personal information secure and ensure that the locations that produce and make licenses are safe.
A bill to make Kentucky compliant with REAL ID, sponsored by state Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, passed the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year. It then headed to Bevin, who had publicly supported the measure.
But the Republican governor vetoed the bill, saying that there was “widespread opposition” to REAL ID.
The Department of Homeland Security says driver’s licenses and identification cards that don’t meet REAL ID still will be valid for entering federal facilities that don’t require ID; voting or registering to vote; applying for or getting federal benefits; having access to court as a defendant; and being licensed by a state to drive.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said in a statement that he questions whether REAL ID will result in enhanced security. But, he said, "Kentucky simply can't ignore the law. It's unfortunate that Governor Bevin vetoed the bicameral, bipartisan agreement that would have prevented further headaches for Kentucky travelers and residents."
Kentucky officials sought a one-year extension on the grounds that the state was making progress. Hack said in a prepared statement that the federal government was turning "a blind eye to recent progress," and in remarks to reporters he said the administrations of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama both failed to make REAL ID a priority.
In the coming months, Hack said officials plan to meet with groups that have raised concerns about REAL ID and speak with Kentuckians about changes that would make the state comply with the law.
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