‘REAL ID' Law to Bring Pennsylvania into Federal Compliance Approved by State Senate

Legislation that would avoid problems for residents at airports and at certain jobs is estimated to cost $67 million in an overhaul of driver's licenses and other state-issued identification.

Legislation that would bring Pennsylvania into compliance with a federal law requiring updated forms of state-issued identification like driver's licenses passed through the state Senate this week.

The bill would repeal a 2012 state law that explicitly refused a Department of Homeland Security requirement for all states to upgrade the IDs that are issued to residents. It also asks the federal government for another extension to a June 6 deadline for bringing IDs into compliance.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will now take up the bill for consideration.

Gov. Tom Wolf supports the current effort to repeal the 2012 law and begin work on compliance, his spokesman said Thursday, though he added that Wolf would like to see some changes to the current legislation.

"While the governor would sign the current version of the bill in order to achieve that objective, he feels that in its current form, the repeal bill is overly prescriptive and may complicate PennDOT’s schedule for coming into compliance and make the process more confusing for residents," Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said.

Homeland Security gave Pennsylvania an extension in January after the state request more time to comply with the federal requirements, which were put in place to streamline the forms of identification issued by all 50 states and enhance the technology with which IDs are equipped.

Numerous states, including Pennsylvania, initially balked at the mandated overhaul on the grounds of cost and effort for the state Department of Transportation.

But Wolf and legislators have begun to work on compliance in the last year as warnings that current driver's licenses and state-issued IDs would not be accepted at airports and in other situations that would hamper residents' ability to travel, work and access certain federal buildings.

A report on the cost of implementing the REAL ID law that was issued with the Senate bill said initial estimated costs of $120-140 million have now shrunk to $67 million since PennDOT has upgraded some of its technology already.

"Given the monumental inconvenience non-compliance will have on many of our constituents, the level of compliance PennDOT already has with REAL ID, and the few outstanding issues that remain, I believe it is now necessary for the General Assembly to give thoughtful reconsideration of Act 38," the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said in a statement.

Act 38 is the 2012 law that prevents PennDOT from becoming compliant with the federal REAL ID law.

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