Gov. Fallin Signs REAL ID Compliance Bill
By: Constitution Staff
On March 2, Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1845, the REAL ID compliance legislation. The new law will enable Oklahoma drivers to obtain a compliant REAL ID driver’s license or identification card. The 33-page bill passed the House 78-18 on February 16 and the Senate 35-11 on February 28.
The legislation was a priority measure for the governor who urged lawmakers during her State of the State address this year to pass a measure to make Oklahoma compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. HB 1845 was the first measure of this year’s legislative session to be signed into law by the governor. “I appreciate the hard work and determination of Speaker Charles McCall and President Pro Tem Mike Schulz in getting this legislation crafted and approved overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate,” said Fallin. “Our citizens let us know they wanted action on this legislation so they wouldn’t be burdened with the cost and hassle of providing additional identification to gain entrance to federal buildings, military bases or federal courthouse. And they most certainly didn’t want to have to pay for additional identification, such as a passport, in order to board a commercial airliner beginning in January. The people spoke and our legislators listened. And I’m pleased to sign House Bill 1845 into law.”
Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz (R-Altus) said, “This bill also gives Oklahomans a choice, and lets them choose an ID that is not compliant with the federal law.” Speaker of the House Charles McCall (R-Atoka.)said, “This bill will bring our state into compliance with federal law while protecting the privacy and freedom of our citizens,”. “Those Oklahomans who are concerned about privacy and liberty will be allowed to opt out and receive a state-compliant ID, but those citizens who need access to federal installations or who desire to travel can receive a federally compliant ID.”
The bill creates a two-tiered system of Oklahoma ID cards and driver’s licenses – one card that complies with the Real ID Act and one that doesn’t. Oklahomans may choose a non-compliant license, but a Real ID-compliant card may be needed to board commercial aircraft as early as 2018. The federal government has also said it will restrict access to military bases and other government buildings later this year.
Governor Mary Fallin along with legislative leaders announced on January 3 that Oklahoma had received an extension through June 6, 2017, to meet the requirements. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned that failure by the state to enact legislation committing Oklahoma to all REAL ID requirements during the 2017 legislative session could result in the denial of future extensions.
Without the extension, starting on January 30, 2017, anyone without a compliant driver’s license would not have been allowed to enter federal government buildings, facilities, and military bases. And, beginning on January 22, 2018, a non-compliant driver’s license would not be accepted to board a commercial aircraft within the United States. Other forms of identification, such as a passport would have to be used instead. It is estimated that only about 30% of Oklahomans have a passport.
Currently, 25 states and Washington D.C. have been deemed by DHS to be fully compliant with the federal requirements. Seven states are “noncompliant” and have not been granted additional time extensions. Those states are: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Washington. State officials in those states are concerned that information could be breached or could be used to track law-abiding citizens. The remaining 18 states, including Oklahoma, along with several U.S. territories have time extensions in effect.
The Real ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in May of 2005. The legislation was passed by Congress to address security issues identified by the 9/11 Commission associated with obtaining driver’s licenses or government-issued identification. The 9/11 hijackers had over 30 forms of identification and 364 aliases among the 19 men. Under the REAL ID Act states were required to reissue more than 240 million driver licenses, starting in 2010.
To implement the law, the DHS issued nearly 300 pages of guidelines for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards, as well as standards for license-issuing facilities. The guidelines require physical features on the licenses, including machine-readable data. Steps are required to verify the identity of driver license applicants, including checks of birth certificates, Social Security numbers and citizenship status. Agencies that issue the IDs must capture digital images of driver identification documents, photograph each person applying for a license in a high-resolution digital format, and store the images electronically in a transferable format that can be shared with other entities. Each state must agree to share its motor vehicle database with all other states. This database must include, at a minimum, all the data printed on the state driver licenses or ID cards, plus drivers’ histories (including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses).
Civil libertarians say the REAL ID Act is a further intrusion of the federal government into citizens’ lives, and raise the specter of a nationwide database of personal information. They are particularly concerned about the provision requiring the state IDs to include high-resolution photos and fingerprints for potential biometric identification.
In 2007, Senate Bill 464 was unanimously passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed by Gov. Brad Henry. The legislation said “the state of Oklahoma shall not participate in the implementation of the Real ID Act. The Department of Public Safety is hereby directed not to implement the provisions of the Real ID Act...” The bill further called for the retrieval of any biometric data previously collected, obtained, or retained and deleting that data from any and all databases that had anything to do with REAL ID.
Oklahoma began issuing a new form of driver license in 2012 which meets most of the requirements in the REAL ID Act. This included placing machine-readable data on the back of the cards and shifting the placement of the photo. While there are still compliance issues such as the training of employees issuing licenses to detect fraudulent documents, the critical remaining obstacle is Oklahoma’s unwillingness to share the data with others outside the state.
DHS is trying to place pressure on the states that have not reached compliance. As Reason magazine of January 10, 2017 explained, “This year, after years of shifting deadlines on the federal government's effort to create a backdoor national ID card, the TSA began posting signs at airports warning travelers that, as of January 22, 2018, they'll need identification documents compliant with the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, to be allowed to fly.” Reason said the “scary signs are meant to apply pressure to those states balking at making their drivers' licenses compliant with federal requirements.” Technically, the REAL ID Act does not force the states to comply, nor penalize states by withholding federal funds. But, by requiring compliant IDs in order to enter federal facilities or board commercial aircraft, the efforts places public pressure on states to comply.
Oklahoma officials will now begin work on building a compliant system. That includes training tag agents and creating a facility to handle card manufacturing and storage. Those applying for a Real ID compliant license or ID will have to bring documents showing proof of identity, such as a valid, unexpired U.S. passport or a certified copy of a birth certificate. Residents will also have to verify their Social Security number. A pay stub with the applicant’s name and Social Security number or a W-2 form can be used. Finally, those seeking a compliant license will have to verify a residential address with at least two documents that can include a utility bill or lease papers with the person’s name and principal residence.
Oklahoma Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said implementing the new system could take two years or more. But, officials, hope that the federal government will acknowledge the state’s progress and let Oklahomans travel freely until the new cards are available. Thompson said in a news release that the new license or identification card will have a different appearance from noncompliant versions, including an indicator that it is Real ID compliant. “Noncompliant cards will indicate that they are not to be used for federal identification purposes.” The cost of all ID cards and licenses, including noncompliant versions, will be increased by $5. A common driver’s license, known as a Class D license, will increase in price by $5 to $38.50.
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