Oklahoma Lawmakers Scramble for REAL ID Solution

The 2005 federal legislation requiring states to increase security measures in state-issued driver's licenses is coming back to haunt the states that did not adopt the measure.

by Tim Hudson, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Okla. / October 8, 2015
REAL ID Act drivers license and ID card compliance by state. Wikicommons

(TNS) -- The recent announcement that come February Oklahomans will need something more than their state issued driver’s license to board a plane or enter a federal building has state lawmakers scrambling for a solution.

“We will have a lot of constituents that will be upset if they can’t use their driver’s license in that manner,” State Rep. Earl Sears said. “They will be quite frustrated and quite frankly angry if they can’t get on an airplane to visit family or go on a business trip.”

The announcement was made Saturday, Oct. 3 by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and included the warning that “Oklahomans who use their state-issued ID cards or driver’s licenses as a form of identification need to be aware that these means of ID may not grant access to federal buildings or commercial aircraft in the near future.”

“What this means for Oklahomans is that their state-issued identification card or driver’s license may no longer be accepted by federal agencies for official purposes, such as gaining access to federal facilities, access to military installations or boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft,” said OHP Capt. Paul Timmons in a press release.

“As of this date, some federal facilities are already refusing to accept cards or licenses from noncompliant states. On the other hand, the Transportation Security Administration says that it will continue to accept driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards from Oklahoma and other noncompliant states at least until 2016.”

Sears says that in his opinion “the problem is that we passed a bill in 2007 that we would not adhere to the ID act.”

According to Timmons, the Real ID act of 2005 was enacted by the federal government and signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 11, 2005.

“Included in the act were minimum security standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards. One of the goals of the act is to make state driver licenses more secure and less susceptible to counterfeit or forgery” he said.

The Real ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting a state-issued driver license or identification card for any official purpose unless the card or license is issued by a state that meets the requirements set forth in the Act.

The action Sears refers to is an Oklahoma statute lawmakers enacted in November 2007, that basically prohibits the Department of Public Safety from implementing any provisions of the Real ID Act. Currently Oklahoma is listed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website as a compliant state, but an extension for the state to comply will expire on Oct. 10.

“We have to repeal that law that we passed in 2007, and what that law says is that our driver’s license will not adhere to this Federal Homeland Security Office plan. We passed a bill that slowed it down so reality is coming and we have to address that and hopefully they will grant us another extension” he said.

According to the OHP many of the Act’s requirements are the “best practices in the driver’s license industry, and many were already being implemented by the Department prior to passage of the Real ID Act.”

“By following industry best practices, Oklahoma meets 65 percent of the components necessary to be considered Real ID compliant. However, under current state law, the department is still unable to meet all of the components,” Timmons said.

According to Sears the earliest the matter may be addressed will be in February.

“I’m aware of the situation and it is an issue that we must address this session,” he said. “I’m confident that we will address it but I’m not sure if it will pass.”

In a follow-up story, The Edmond Sun reported that Gov. Mary Fallin's office released a statement on Oct. 7 to clarify that no immediate impact on Oklahoma residents is anticipated as a result of the current extension expiration.

“The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety recently requested a continuation of the state’s REAL ID extension,” said Communications Director Alex Weintz. “Gov. Fallin and lawmakers continue to discuss solutions that would ensure Oklahomans are not subject to inconveniences when accessing federal buildings or when traveling in the future.”

©2015 the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise (Bartlesville, Okla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.