Opponents warn that REAL ID could lead to unconstitutional invasions of privacy, tracking of U.S. citizens by the United Nations and the mark of the beast as prophesied in the Book of Revelations. Opponents of what some say is a national ID card span the political spectrum from the American Civil Liberties Union to Take Back Kentucky.
We, however, can’t work up much alarm over standards that a Republican Congress enacted in response to the 9/11 attacks, when four of the 19 foreign nationals who turned airliners into suicide bombs boarded by showing state-issued driver’s licenses.
We do worry that law-abiding Kentuckians could be turned away from domestic airline flights in a year if their licenses still do not comply with the REAL ID law, which has been on the books since 2005.
If the legislature and Gov. Matt Bevin again fail to act, a Kentucky driver’s license will cease to work for boarding domestic flights in January 2018. Nor will it get you into a military base or a nuclear power plant. (After the deadline clicked in earlier this month at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell, Homeland Security granted an extension until June 6 to use a Kentucky license at military bases.)
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Many Kentuckians never travel abroad. Why should they pay $55 for a passport to board a domestic flight when residents of 43 states can use their driver’s licenses because their states are following the law?
House Bill 77, sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, would put us in compliance, while giving Kentuckians the choice of opting out of the enhanced licensing.
Bevin supported last year’s version of HB 77 then blindsided lawmakers by vetoing it after right-wingers complained. Bevin has said a new U.S. administration might change the requirements. But President Donald Trump seems unlikely to undo precautions against terrorist attacks after campaigning for more secure borders and “extreme vetting” of immigrants.
If Bevin and lawmakers enact HB 77, renewing a license would require a birth certificate and two other proofs of residency such as a utility bill, lease or deed. (Kentucky already requires a birth certificate to get a license for the first time.) Kentuckians would sit for a photo at the usual offices. Then, instead of 140 clerk’s offices issuing permanent licenses on the spot, secure central locations would issue the licenses by mail. (Vendors already supply the license-making machines.)
If HB 77 becomes law, Kentuckians boarding domestic flights would have until October 2020 to update their licenses.
The requirements make it harder for foreigners who are here with criminal intent to get on airliners or into military bases or nuclear plants; they spare clerks from having to ramp up security against theft or counterfeiting.
The cost would increase $1 a year, and the license would be good for eight years. Instead of paying $20 every four years, we’d pay $48 every eight years. After 9/11 Kentucky switched to tamper-proof licenses durable enough to last eight years.
The new licenses are not used for data collection, except as licenses already are used to share information among states about license suspensions and duplications.
REAL ID did impose a mostly unfunded mandate on states. Failure to comply would impose an unfunded mandate on Kentuckians who need to fly. There’s no excuse for failing to fix this when the legislature resumes.
While they’re at it, Bevin and lawmakers should seek other ways to modernize a system that predates computers and could be made more efficient by giving drivers online access to licensing.