Pennsylvania is among a handful of states refusing to follow the federal REAL ID Act, which was designed to make driver’s licenses more secure.
With the federal government starting to limit where the state’s licenses can be used as identification at the end of the of the month, Gov. Tom Wolf is pushing for more time.
Wolf has called Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to request an extension on the policy’s effects. Neither DHS nor Wolf would say if that relief will be granted.
A spokesman for Wolf said he wants to use any extra time to bring the state into compliance by undoing the state’s efforts to bar REAL ID.
In 2012, Pennsylvania passed Act 38 with the express purpose of preventing the state from participating in REAL ID, over states rights and cybersecurity concerns.
“I’m trying to get support from the Legislature to say, ‘OK, you made your point … let’s join this,'” said Wolf at a recent press event.
On Wednesday, State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia, introduced HB 150, which would repeal Act 38.
Since that law’s passage in 2005, DHS has backed away from the parts of the law that troubled states rights groups, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, namely a mandate that states must share residents drivers’ information with other states.
That language remains in the law, but DHS guidance on the act says, “Each jurisdiction continues to issue its own unique license, maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances.”
However, the consequences loom for failing to comply.
Starting Jan. 30, driver’s licenses issued by states not in compliance will no longer work as identification to enter military bases, federal agencies, or nuclear power plants.
Certain groups, including postal carriers, may be disproportionately burdened by the impending changes.
“They can’t get into federal buildings to make deliveries if they have a Pennsylvania license,” said Wolf.
In January 2018, the prohibition will kick in for passengers boarding commercial flights.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, people who need to access federal facilities to “participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations,” register to vote or receive federal benefits will not be required to show compliant ID.
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said the state’s licenses are largely in line with the requirements of the act concerning background checks and making it harder to manufacture fraudulent licenses.
Delaware is in compliance with the federal REAL ID law, and New Jersey has secured an extension through October.