Story by Matthew Parks, Staff writer
On Oct. 12, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied the commonwealth of Kentucky’s request for a one-year extension to the federal REAL ID laws.
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), this could potentially force all Kentucky residents to be required to use passports for domestic air travel if Kentucky is not in compliance with REAL ID laws by January 2018. This would also affect Kentucky residents’ ability to use driver’s licenses to enter military bases such as Fort Campbell, nuclear power plants and other designated federal government facilities.
The legislation was set by the 9/11 Commission in order to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
The website also says that approximately 90 percent of those in the U.S. who have driver’s licenses are either in compliance with the law or their state has received an extension allowing the continued use of their identification as before.
“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 in a press release from the KYTC.
According to KYTC, Kentucky’s main area of non-compliance lies in its highly decentralized method of identification issuance. Drivers in Kentucky are able to obtain a license from 144 different Circuit Court Clerk office locations.
The press release also stated in order for Kentucky to be in compliance with REAL ID laws, each of those locations would have to undergo costly security upgrades.
The General Assembly proposed a law earlier this year that would have brought Kentucky into compliance with federal regulations, but Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed the movement because he said he believed the assembly was rushed, according to the release from the KYTC.
The Department of Homeland Security’s website states that Kentucky has until the federal mandated deadline of Jan. 22, 2018 to come into compliance. At that time, state residents will be subject to stricter travel policies.
“All Kentuckians should be aware that the immediate impact of this decision will not be felt by the vast majority of Kentuckians,” Hack said in the KYTC press release. “We can still use our driver’s licenses to visit the Social Security offices, Veteran’s Affairs (VA) facilities, federal courthouses and to apply for federal benefits like Medicare.”
According their press release, KYTC plans to host a series of public forums throughout December in order to discuss the implications of this issue and means of solving the statewide dilemma.
For a full list of accepted travel documents, Kentucky residents can visit the Transportation Security Administration website.