Just as a Sunday deadline had much of the country fretting over whether their state’s driver’s licenses would be acceptable enough identification to board an airplane, federal authorities announced Friday afternoon they would postpone enforcing the Real ID Act until January 2018.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement outlining the schedule.
Under the law, residents of states whose licenses and identification cards fail to meet Real ID standards and whose officials have failed to get an extension will have to show an acceptable alternative form of identification to board a domestic air flight. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, every air traveler will need identification that complies with Real ID.
All of this means little immediately to Louisiana travelers, as state government, with the help of the congressional delegation, already was allowed to extend the Sunday deadline until October.
And by the time Halloween rolls around, Louisiana licenses should be Real ID-compliant, said Col. Michael Edmonson, the State Police superintendent. Of the 30-some enhancements necessary for Louisiana to become compliant, the state Office of Motor Vehicles has accomplished all but two: a minor procedural item and overturning a 2008 law forbidding the state from complying with the federal act.
“With this legislation, we will be able to put that star on there that says you’re Real ID-compliant,” Edmonson said.
In addition to Louisiana, five states — Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington — failed to approve enabling legislation or prohibited the adoption of Real ID standards.
Louisiana legislators in 2008 banned the state from meeting the federal requirements, citing privacy concerns and security features that have since been addressed.
But Edmonson said the OMV worked within the 2008 ban to upgrade other licensing procedures, such as requiring applicants to show their birth certificates and changing the procedures so officials can document that the person applying for the identification is the same person on the supporting documentation. They’re working out procedures for Louisiana to photograph each person who comes into an OMV outlet.
Then there’s the legislation.
The new OMV commissioner, Karen St. Germain, will be sworn in Monday. As a Democratic state representative from Pierre Part, she sponsored the bill in 2014 in which the Legislature reversed itself and passed wording that would allow drivers to choose whether or not their driver’s license would have a star to show Real ID compliance, which allows easy access onto domestic airline flights and to enter federal facilities.
Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed the measure, saying that Real ID provides unnecessary federal oversight of state-issued driver’s licenses. The Eagle Forum, Louisiana Family Forum and the Tea Party of Louisiana asked for a veto, citing concerns that the bill “would compromise Louisiana’s sovereignty,” Jindal wrote.
Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards voted with the majority approving the St. Germain legislation. The measure will be introduced again, probably in the regular annual session of the Legislature, scheduled to begin March 14, she said Friday.
Some minor wording changes may be necessary to fit in with what the state licensing authorities and federal regulators have done over the past two years. But otherwise, it will be the same bill Jindal vetoed in 2014, St. Germain said. “That’s the way the governor-elect told me he would like to see it,” she said.
The Rev. Gene Mills, who heads Louisiana Family Forum, said he has faith in Edmonson’s work but can’t say where the group would stand on the bill this time around, at least until the measure is written and introduced.
Edmonson said one major concern voiced by opponents was that the federal government could not fully explain how the information being gathered in each of the 50 states would be used. “We have clarified that issue. It’s merely a pointer system,” Edmonson said.
Federal authorities are not looking to retrieve birth certificates and other personal information. All that information will be held in Louisiana and not available to the federal government.
“They just want to make sure we can confirm your identity,” Edmonson said.
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