Federal authorities have given Pennsylvania a few more months to comply with a 2005 federal law that requires people to prove they are legal U.S. residents in order for their driver's licenses to be valid for federal purposes, the Wolf administration said Thursday.
The extension for compliance with the Real ID law means that, for now, Pennsylvania licenses will be sufficient proof of identification to get into federal facilities.
Gov. Tom Wolf said the agreement would give state policy makers time to develop legislation to meet federal requirements.
"I thank the leaders in both chambers for making this commitment to fix state law to allow for us to come into compliance so that no Pennsylvanians, from delivery drivers to air travelers, will be inconvenienced by the current provisions barring PennDOT from completing certain requirements," said Wolf. "My administration will continue to work with the General Assembly and the federal government to come into compliance and ensure we can resolve this in an efficient and timely manner before residents face any additional challenges."
Real ID provisions require certain identification standards in order to enter federal facilities such as military bases and nuclear plants, but next year more widespread problems loom, as the heightened standards will be required for people boarding commercial airlines.
The state's new deadline is June 6.
"This added time allows us to work together to ensure the Commonwealth becomes compliant in a way that is easy for residents and cost-effective," said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman.
A 2012 state law, the Real ID Nonparticipation Act , is keeping Pennsylvania from meeting the federal law's requirements. It passed the state Senate unanimously and the House by a wide margin.
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A Wolf aide said the Democratic governor spoke twice recently with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to pursue the time extension. A letter to Wolf dated Wednesday from two Homeland Security officials said the limited extension was based, in part, on their understanding that a legislative fix was expected to be passed this year.
"We at PennDOT are grateful to Governor Wolf and the leaders of the General Assembly for their bipartisan cooperation that opened the door to this needed extension," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards. "It delivers relief to our citizens who need access to federal facilities. We also are gratified that the Department of Homeland Security continues to acknowledge the security advances PennDOT has delivered in its driver license."
The federal law was enacted as a result of the Sept. 11 terror attacks carried out by hijackers who had obtained valid ID from various states. The federal ID standards were designed to help prevent terrorism and fraud.