FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2016) – Kentucky’s request for a one-year extension to come into compliance with federal regulations known as REAL ID was denied today by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The denial of the extension comes in spite of recent documented progress the state has made to further enhance the security of its driver’s license and ID card issuance system. Despite the denial, Kentucky will continue efforts to modernize its system of issuance for these credentials.
“It’s disappointing that the federal government is basically turning a blind eye to recent progress we’ve made in improving our systems,” said John-Mark Hack, commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation. “All Kentuckians should be aware that the immediate impact of this decision will not be felt by the vast majority of Kentuckians. We can still use our driver licenses and state ID cards to visit the Social Security offices, Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, federal courts houses and to apply for federal benefits like Medicare.”
On Aug. 31, 2016, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) requested a one-year extension to continue progress toward REAL ID compliance. A revised extension request was submitted on Sept. 29, 2016 outlining the state’s progress on previously unmet provisions and regulations.
The delay in reaching compliance is a culmination of starts and stops at the federal and state level. The act was passed by Congress in 2005 by the 9/11 Commission but regulations were not published until January 2008. The former administration had eight years to reach compliance. In 2009, the House voted 100-0 to halt the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet from pursuing REAL ID compliance. Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed Senate Bill 245 to allow time to investigate the implications of REAL ID after hearing public opposition.
Kentucky is compliant with most of the provisions necessary to be deemed REAL ID compliant. The main area of non-compliance is related to the state’s current system of issuance. Kentucky has a highly decentralized model that allows residents to obtain a driver’s license or ID card over the counter at one of 144 Circuit Court Clerk Office locations. This created challenges in meeting REAL ID provisions that require every issuance facility to meet costly security standards.
Kentucky had been operating on a one-year extension that expired Oct. 10, 2016. The effects of a non-compliant designation will have a minimal immediate impact for Kentuckians. The Department of Homeland Securities Nebraska Avenue Complex headquarters in Washington, D.C. will not accept Kentucky driver’s licenses and identification cards effective Oct. 11, 2016.
Beginning January 10, 2017, some federal facilities, including military installations and all nuclear power plants, will not accept Kentucky driver’s licenses and identification cards to gain entry. People who frequently visit military installations in Kentucky should contact those facilities to determine if their current Kentucky credentials will still be acceptable.
Licenses and identification cards from non-compliant states can still be used to visit Social Security Administration offices, Veteran Affairs facilities and federal court houses. Identification will not be required at federal facilities where one is not presently requested, such as national parks or public areas of the Smithsonian. Residents are encouraged to check with the agency to learn what identification credential is accepted prior to visiting.
Gov. Bevin and KYTC officials are committed to the security of Kentuckians while preserving the right for citizens to choose whether they want to receive a federally compliant driver’s license or ID. Kentucky plans to request approval to modernize its driver license and identification card issuance system from the Kentucky General Assembly during the January 2017 legislative session.
The need for system modernization is long overdue and this transition will enhance security and create a more efficient system of issuance. If legislation is passed allowing Kentucky to modernize its system of issuance, this leaves the door open for DHS to consider reinstating the state’s extension in the future.
During the 2016 legislative session, the public expressed opposition regarding REAL ID during the rushed General Assembly influencing Gov. Bevin’s veto to allow time to understand the implications of REAL ID. Prior to the upcoming General Assembly, stakeholders who voiced concerns will have the opportunity to learn more about legislation proposals and have a factual understanding of the benefits of system modifications and its impact on REAL ID compliance. KYTC is planning a series of public forums on this issue for early December.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to accept Kentucky driver’s licenses to board domestic flights until Jan. 22, 2018. If Kentucky is still deemed out of compliance by that date, then passengers may be required to use another form of identification, such as a Passport of Passport Card, U.S. military ID, or complete a TSA questionnaire.
A full list of accepted documents is provided on the TSA website at https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.