Real ID Requirements Present Real Problems for PA Residents

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By Phil Raymond, Staff Writer

Pennsylvania residents may have to use another form of ID to enter a federal building or even fly domestically due to the Real ID law. The Real ID law, signed by Congress in 2005, requires states to develop driver’s licenses with certain security features and various other practices.[1] Real ID was passed as a result of mounting concerns for national security, according to the Department of Homeland Security.[2]

As of 2012, however, Pennsylvania refused to be a part of the program, mainly due to the costs involved.[3] The federal government offered Pennsylvania no money to institute this measure, and, already facing budget deficit, Pennsylvania would have to foot an estimated $250-$300 million bill to comply with Real ID.[4] Pennsylvania is not alone, however. The concern is not unsubstantiated, as California officials noted that their bill to comply with Real ID could reach in excess of $1 billion dollars.[5] Eight other states have not complied with Real ID: “Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington.”[6]

Initially, when the new year began, Pennsylvania had until January 30 to develop legislation to comply with Real ID. Now, state lawmakers petitioned for an extension, which gives Pennsylvania until June 6, 2017, to comply. Efforts to deny this change, however, have been introduced, dating back to 2012. In 2012, Pennsylvania passed the Real ID Nonparticipation Act, which, as the name implies, is keeping Pennsylvania from meeting the federal requirements.[7] The Act was passed by Congress by a wide margin. Due to time constraints, the state asked for another extension back in October 2016, which the Department of Homeland security denied.[8]

Recently, Pennsylvania went as far as to send a letter, signed by 116 lawmakers, to the Trump administration to solve the constitutional issues the Real ID Act has raised and to relieve the state of the massive cost the Act would require.[9] The Pennsylvania lawmakers argued that the Real ID Act imposed a significant unfunded mandate took away the state’s power to institute its own driver’s license regulations.[10] Additionally, the lawmakers argued that because the Real ID Act requires a registry with drivers’ personal data and information, the risks for potential fraud and identity theft would increase.[11]

Pennsylvania citizens are also troubled by the Real ID Act. Since the Real ID Act would bar the use of Pennsylvania-issued driver’s licenses, residents would have to rely upon passports or other documents when flying domestically or entering federal buildings. The problem is that there are numerous Pennsylvania citizens without a federal passport, and obtaining one is not cheap at about $135 a person.[12]

Another issue is for first-time applicants for driver’s licenses.[13] Currently, first-time applicants must present documentation at the license center, including birth certificates, to prove that the individual is a Pennsylvania resident.[14] An individual only needs to be present at the license center to have a picture taken.[15] Subsequent renewals may be done online. Under the Real ID standards, drivers must come into the license center every time renewal is needed, which is more labor intensive.[16]

Pennsylvania currently is on a very short timeframe to comply with Real ID, and some state residents are concerned. Unless Pennsylvania passes legislation to comply with Real ID by June 6, state residents, beginning January 22, 2018,[17] may no longer use a state driver’s license to board an airplane, even to fly domestic.




[2]  Id.

[3]  Id.

[4]  Id.




[8]  Id.


[10]  Id.

[11]  Id.


[13]  Id.

[14]  Id.

[15]  Id.

[16]  Id.


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