Tom Eblen

Will new Kentucky licenses make us safer? Only if terrorists are as confused as we are.

‘Confident Kentucky’ licenses will be among most secure in US

Although release of the two new licenses have been delayed, a Transportation Cabinet video explains how Kentucky licenses will be more secure; their prices and differences; and when residents will have to use them and where.
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Although release of the two new licenses have been delayed, a Transportation Cabinet video explains how Kentucky licenses will be more secure; their prices and differences; and when residents will have to use them and where.

Kentucky will soon have new driver licenses, and they are all about enhanced security. Here’s how: Things have been made so confusing that terrorists won’t be able to figure out how to get one. Neither will anyone else.

Kentucky is one of the last states to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the Real ID Act of 2005. Congress passed this act and President George W. Bush signed it into law amid the homeland security hysteria following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who flew a commercial airliner into the Pentagon that day, had four driver licenses and ID cards from three states, so Congress decided the federal government needed a centralized database of driver license info.

It’s the same logic that forces you to take off your shoes before boarding a plane because Richard Reid tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his sneakers. After the failed “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, I guess we should be thankful authorities only make us hold up our arms and pose for a body scanner.

The Real ID law has faced opposition from the right and left. Both Tea Party activists and the American Civil Liberties Union call it an invasion of privacy that would create a one-stop shopping database for hackers wanting to commit identity theft.

The ACLU even set up a website, Realnightmare.org, that describes the law as real invasive, real red tape, real expensive and real pointless. So far though, efforts in Congress to repeal the Real ID Act have failed.

So, Kentucky is finally falling in line after receiving several federal extensions. After the General Assembly passed conforming legislation in 2016 with Gov. Matt Bevin’s blessing, he vetoed the measure after getting pushback from Tea Party activists.

But faced with the prospect that Kentuckians would have to have a passport to fly domestically or enter a federal facility or military base, the governor and lawmakers put their heads together last year and passed a bill they could live with. How well the rest of us live with it remains to be seen.

Beginning in October 2020, you will need one of the new licenses to fly commercially or enter a military base or other secure federal facility. (Or you will need a passport or other approved ID.) Air travelers 17 and younger will not need a travel ID if accompanied by an adult with acceptable documentation.

Nobody knows what the new licenses will look like, or exactly when they will be available. But sometime early next year, the state will begin issuing them through circuit court clerks’ offices.

Instead of leaving the clerk’s office with your new license, as you do now, you will get a temporary license good for 30 days and your actual license will arrive by mail within 10 days (assuming it isn’t lost or stolen in the mail.)

Here’s where things get really confusing:

If you want a full-power license that allows you to drive, fly commercially and enter a secure federal facility, the state of Kentucky now calls that a Voluntary Travel ID. It will cost $48 for eight years (half that for four years).

To apply for it, you must submit these documents: A birth certificate, passport or permanent resident card; a Social Security card or other proof of Social Security number; and a proof of home address, such as a utility bill or lease.

If you just want to drive and don’t want to hand over all those documents, you can get a “standard” eight-year license for $43 (or half that for four years). After 2023, only eight year licenses will be issued in both categories.

If you must renew your current four-year regular driver license before the new ones are available, you likely will get some credit toward your new license when you finally get it, but the details are fuzzy. For more information, including a list of acceptable documents for proving who you are, go to this state website: Drive.ky.gov.

Feeling safer yet?

Although release of the two new licenses have been delayed, a Transportation Cabinet video explains how Kentucky licenses will be more secure; their prices and differences; and when residents will have to use them and where.

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