Matt Henderson

Commissioner of Vehicle Regulation Matt Henderson

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky transportation officials hope to centralize all driver’s license work in the state, ultimately removing the task from local circuit court clerks entirely.

The push toward a statewide model similar to those in other states will be a focus of next year’s General Assembly, said Matt Henderson, Kentucky’s vehicle regulation commissioner.

“My office, at this time, is in favor of assuming all issuance,” Henderson told a meeting of the Kentucky Association of Circuit Court Clerks. “There’s a lot of efficiencies there.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet already has taken the first steps toward handling one form of driver’s licenses known as Real ID at regional centers that haven’t yet been established or funded. The agency last month chose to end its longstanding plan to let local circuit court clerks handle applications for those licenses.

Henderson said those locations and opening dates will be announced soon.

“We’re going to stand those up over the next couple of months,” he said.

Henderson also said he has spoken with Kentucky’s largest airports, including Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, about issuing Real IDs.

The clerks’ association favors getting out of the driver’s license business altogether. For now, circuit clerks will continue to issue driver’s licenses that don’t meet the federal Real ID standards, while the state will oversee Real IDs.

“A one stop shop is the very best for our citizens in getting their credential,” said David Nicholson, Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk. He said he believes Louisville needs at least three offices where citizens can get a Real ID.

The switch to a regional plan for Real IDs came after a pilot program in Franklin and Woodford counties resulted in long wait times and an increased workload.

The Transportation Cabinet’s Frankfort headquarters now is offering Real IDs for that county’s residents.  

While the county-by-county approach has been scrapped, Kentucky earlier this week announced that Anderson County residents can now get Real IDs in Frankfort – about a 25-minute drive away.

On October 1, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration and other U.S. agencies no longer will accept Kentucky’s current licenses to board domestic flights or get into federal facilities like military bases and government buildings.

At that point, for example, Kentuckians would need the Real ID license or a passport or other valid federal ID to get on a plane.

As the new credentials become available, the state will offer two driver's licenses.

The so-called “voluntary travel ID” meets the Real ID standards. It functions like a current Kentucky driver’s license, letting its holder drive, buy alcohol, make other age-limited purchases, board domestic flights and enter military posts.

The other type is known as a “standard driver's license,” which is similar to the current license. It will be good for driving, age-restricted purchases and entering federal buildings for basic services, but can’t be used on its own to board a domestic plane.

All states and territories are required to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act, which Congress passed as a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It set new standards for personal identification cards, such as driver’s licenses. The goal is to make it harder to counterfeit or forge documents.

This story will be updated.

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