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'Optional' REAL ID Bill Advances To Kentucky House

Kevin Bratcher holds papers at desk during committee meeting.
Legislative Research Commission
Rep. Kevin D. Bratcher, R-Louisville, presents House Bill 3, a bill geared toward juvenile justice reform before the House Judiciary Committee.

A bill that would centralize Kentucky’s driver’s licensing program and bring the state into compliance with federal ID card rules has received initial approval from a legislative committee.

The General Assembly needs to pass the bill in order to meet stricter REAL ID standards passed by Congress more than a decade ago.

If lawmakers don’t pass the legislation, starting June 6, Kentuckians will have to bring additional identification — like a passport — in order to access military bases.

And starting Jan. 22, 2018, Kentuckians would need additional identification to board domestic flights.

The legislature nearly resolved the issue last year by passing a similar bill, but Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed it in response to groups like the tea party and the ACLU voicing concerns that the legislation would endanger individual liberties and privacy.

This year’s bill sponsor, Rep. Jim DuPlessis, said those issues are now resolved because the measure allows citizens to “opt in” for a REAL ID or keep their regular driver’s licenses.

“Last year, there was no provisions to keep standard driver’s licenses from being scanned and stored," DuPlessis said. "This one prevents that.”

Under the legislation, Kentuckians would still apply and renew driver’s licenses in their local county clerks’ offices, but REAL ID applications would be sent to the state Transportation Cabinet.

The enhanced ID applicants would be checked against a federal identity verification system and the state would store information including copies of birth certificates.

Regular ID applicants wouldn’t have their birth certificates stored, DuPlessis said.

“You still have to show the clerk who you are, but they don’t scan it, they don’t do anything, they don’t send it to anybody, they just look at it,” he said.

Those who don’t want to get the new identification cards would be able to use a passport or get a special travel card that would allow them to board flights and enter military bases.

Kate Miller, advocacy director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the bill is an improvement to last year’s legislation because it provides a “meaningful way for people to opt out of REAL ID.”

“What remains are the same problems with REAL ID in terms of the way that they undermine people’s ability to maintain their privacy and their security without good reason,” Miller said. “So REAL ID’s still a problem, but that’s a problem for Congress.”

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. The legislation was based on the 9/11 Commission's recommendations to make the country’s identification card systems more secure.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Jeff Hoover said he wanted Bevin to publicly endorse the REAL ID bill to galvanize support among lawmakers nervous that he would veto the legislation again.

Bevin hasn’t done that yet, but Rep. DuPlessis told a group of reporters that the governor favors the bill.