Pennsylvania driver's license will no longer count as federal ID
October 13, 2016 11:37 PM
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Beginning Jan. 30, Pennsylvania residents won’t be able to use their driver’s license to enter federal facilities.
Office of Sen. Mike Folmer
State Sen. Mike Folmer was the chief sponsor of the REAL ID Nonparticipation Act approved by the Legislature in 2011. Pennsylvania is the only state that has such a law.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The federal Department of Homeland Security says it’s done waiting for Pennsylvania and five other states to comply with 11-year-old changes in federal ID requirements.
Beginning Jan. 30, residents of those states won’t be able to use their driver’s license to enter federal facilities, Homeland Security officials said in a letter to the state Department of Transportation released Thursday. The only exception will be for residents who want to enter federal facilities to apply for such things as Social Security or veteran’s benefits.
And a year later, residents won’t be able to use their driver’s license as ID to board commercial flights, either. They would have to find another acceptable form or ID, such as a valid passport or other federally issued identification, including a military ID or border-crossing card.
At issue is compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005, a law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to improve security. The act requires states to issue licenses with anti-counterfeiting provisions and store photographs and other information in a database that federal officials could use.
But critics say the law has two problems: It establishes what amounts to a national ID card, which they consider an intrusion on privacy, and it is an unfunded federal mandate. In Pennsylvania, which has issued about 9 million driver’s licenses and another 1.4 million photo ID cards, officials estimated five years ago that it could cost $250 million to $300 million to replace those licenses.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which issues driver’s licenses, has made some changes to meet the federal standards. But a 2011 state law prohibits it from complying with other provisions, said department spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick.
“It’s a tough situation right now,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said. “That will be a pretty real burden on people if they can’t use their license to get through airport security. We’ve done everything we can do under state law.”
State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, said Thursday that he considers Homeland Security’s letter “some real saber rattling.” Mr. Folmer was the chief sponsor of the REAL ID Nonparticipation Act approved by the Legislature in 2011. Pennsylvania is the only state that has such a law.
“I’m not apologizing for introducing that bill,” Mr. Folmer said. “I just believe the feds are wrong here [on the need for a uniform license for all states]. It’s an unfunded mandate that we can’t afford at a time when we are having budget problems of our own.”
Mr. Folmer said Pennsylvania has “a very good system,” with strong requirements for identification when someone applies for a license or identification card. Making states share that kind of information with federal officials is “an encroachment on my freedom” that the state shouldn’t allow, he said.
“I wish someone would show me how this card would make me safer,” he said. “The Oklahoma City bomber would have had this kind of card so it wouldn’t have stopped him. I don’t see what it would accomplish.”
Mr. Folmer said it was “never my intent to cause our residents any kind of inconvenience,” but if another legislator introduced a bill to revoke his law and comply with federal regulations, he would vote against it.
Homeland Security has issued many extensions to complying with the REAL ID Act since it was scheduled to begin in 2007. But the department said in letters this week to officials in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma and South Carolina that it will issue no more extensions unless they make significant progress toward compliance.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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