A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Real ID program experiencing real slow rollout as circuit court clerks juggle increased workload

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The on-again, off-again rollout of Kentucky’s new driver’s licenses to meet federal standards of the federal government’s Real ID program is on hold again.

An oft-delayed pilot program for the new licenses, known as Voluntary Travel IDs, finally began this summer in Franklin and Woodford counties, following months of delays. But the circuit court clerks responsible for issuing the new IDs, have expressed displeasure due to the increased workload on their office staff, who also manage district and circuit courts.

From left, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, LRC Director Jay Hartz and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, at Wednesday’s meeting. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Having county offices oversee the Real IDs, which can be used next fall to board domestic flights, is “not a sustainable long-term model,” Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas wrote in a Sept. 6 letter, a copy of which was obtained by WDRB-TV in Louisville.

According to the letter, the cabinet is “making efforts to secure funding” for a regional approach and plans to work with state and local court officials to “quickly develop and execute a plan that is in the best interest of citizens,” Thomas wrote to the Kentucky Association of Circuit Court Clerks and the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters at a meeting of the Legislative Research Commission Wednesday afternoon, that he has had conversations on the issue with Clay County Circuit Clerk Greg Helton, who heads the Kentucky Circuit Clerks Association, as well as Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas.

“Drivers licenses as they are traditionally issued, will continue to be issued by the local circuit clerks,” Stivers said. “They may not be in conformity with the Real ID standards of the federal law, that’s where the Transportation Secretary is going to supplement those with 12 regional offices to issue the Real IDs. They are working collaboratively on a plan to come to us in January to resolve all this.”

Those seeking the new licenses, which will be required in October 2020 to board domestic airline flights, enter federal government facilities and nuclear power plants will have to provide more documentation than they have in the past. Applicants for the new Voluntary Travel ID, or those applying for a license, permit or personal ID for the first time, must present documentation verifying identity, social security number, and residency.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect says although there will be additional costs, lawmakers will do what they can to help streamline the process. “We know the first two counties they have tried it, there have been a lot of glitches. So, anything that we can do to help expedite that, I think you’re going to find a receptive audience here in the legislature.”

Stivers adds, if it is a hardship to travel to a regional center to obtain a Real ID compliant Voluntary Travel, there are other options to gain admission to domestic flights, government facilities and nuclear reactors. “A passport or another federally issued ID. My son, who is in the military, has a compliant ID, because it’s a military ID.”

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