State waiting to hear back on REAL ID extension

10/04/2016 08:56 PM

FRANKFORT — Kentucky will soon learn whether it has more time to comply with the federal REAL ID law as its current extension nears expiration.

John-Mark Hack, commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation, testified before the interim joint Transportation Committee on Tuesday, saying he believes the state already meets many facets of the federal law, crafted in response to Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The state’s current extension expires after Monday, and Hack said he sent an updated extension request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday.

Speaking to reporters after today’s meeting, Hack sounded optimistic that another extension will be granted.

“I believe that we’ve met the provisions set forth by the federal Department of Homeland Security for granting an extension, so if they interpret those provisions the way that we do, then we should certainly be granted that extension, but I can’t predict what they’ll do,” he said.

Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed legislation, Senate Bill 245, that would have made the state compliant with the REAL ID law after initially urging lawmakers to pass it, saying the issue merited further debate.

Hack couldn’t say exactly what the administration would have changed about the legislation, offering to revisit that subject at a later meeting.

Without an extension, Hack said the only immediate impact would be that Kentucky drivers’ licenses couldn’t be used to access the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters. Starting Jan. 10, licenses wouldn’t be accepted to enter some federal buildings, like military facilities and nuclear power plants, and starting Jan. 22, 2018, Kentuckians would need federal forms of identification, like passports, to board domestic flights.

Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, said Bevin’s veto came as a surprise because the legislation moved through the committee process without controversy, and she said she believed that lawmakers passed a well-crafted version of the bill during this year’s session.

She also credited Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, for his efforts in getting the legislation passed.

“We came up with the best bill possible to meet the federal demands, and therefore we thought we had that monkey off our back, so to speak,” Combs said.

Harris said he heard from some opponents of the bill during this year’s session, but he chalked up some of their concerns to a lack of understanding.

He believes the issue can be resolved in the upcoming legislative session regardless of whether another extension is granted.

“I recognize when we did the bill and got the votes and got it out that this was a good opportunity for us to get ahead of everything so it could be fully comply when needed,” Harris said. “However, in the back of my mind was always the thought that, ‘Well, if it doesn’t pass or something like that, we still have one more shot with our short session in 2017 to get everything done,’ and I think we can do that.”

Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, took issue with the amount of debate afforded SB 245. The bill passed the House on the session’s final day, giving the legislation little time for floor debate, he said.

“There were amendments that were ruled not germane,” he said. “There were two amendments filed that did not get debated fully.”

After the meeting, Hack noted that not all federal facilities will be off limits if Kentucky drivers’ licenses remain out of compliance with the REAL ID law.

“Regardless of whether we get the extension or not, people will still be able to use their existing Kentucky drivers’ license to go to the Social Security office, to go to federal courthouses, to go to Veterans Affairs facilities to apply for federal benefits,” he said. “None of those activities would be restricted.”


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