FRANKFORT – After the governor vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have created a new Kentucky driver’s license to meet the tougher federal standards of the Real ID Act, a panel of lawmakers gathered this week to discuss a path forward.
The state will first ask federal officials for an extension to meet the tougher standards, Department of Vehicle Regulation Commissioner John-Mark Hack said during Thursday’s meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation. He added that Kentucky previously received an extension but that it expires on Oct. 10.
When Committee Co-Chair Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, asked the likelihood of another extension being granted, Hack said he was “pretty confident.”
Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, asked what would happen if the extension wasn’t granted. Hack said in that unlikely circumstance Kentuckians would need a passport to board a plane starting as early as January 2018. Keene said that would create a hardship for many residents because a passport can take weeks to receive and cost $135 with fees. That’s almost $100 more than a driver’s license would have cost under the legislation vetoed by the governor.
Had the governor not vetoed the legislation, known as Senate Bill 245, Kentucky would have joined 24 other states that are certified as Real ID compliant – including Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee. Instead, Kentucky remains one of 24 states operating under an extension that expires in October, including Illinois and Virginia. Missouri is considered to be noncompliant.
Combs said SB 245 was introduced by Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, who built a bipartisan coalition to get it passed so Kentucky wouldn’t find itself in this spot.
“I want to take just a moment to thank Sen. Harris for his work on that bill … because that was difficult to get through this session,” she said. “He put a lot of time and effort in getting this done.”
Hack defended the governor’s veto to committee members.
“The governor believes the commonwealth needs additional time to better understand our current position relative to the demands of a fully unfunded federal mandate of REAL ID,” Hack said. “He also believes that this 2005 federal initiative could, in fact, be substantively changed depending on the outcome of our federal elections in November.”
Hack said Kentucky currently complies with many of the Real ID requirements and is addressing additional requirements.
“There are a number of requirements that Kentucky will request exceptions or workarounds which allow for meeting the spirit and real intent of the Real ID legislation without the extensive cost and inconvenience to the state’s citizens,” he said, adding Virginia and California have also asked for similar workarounds.
Some of the provisions of Real ID Hack objected to include forcing people with valid Kentucky driver’s licenses to make an additional trip to their local driver’s license office with verification of their Social Security numbers.
“There are several very costly provisions that go beyond the intent of the federal legislation and impose an unnecessary costly burden on the states,” Hack said.
Combs asked Hack to report back in October on the status of the extension request. She said she wants to know if legislation needs to be introduced during next year’s regular session to help bring Kentucky in compliance.