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Ron Daley: Helping Kentuckians get their REAL ID for air travel should not have taken so long

Don’t you just hate it when our great Commonwealth is at the bottom of rankings compared to other states? It is especially frustrating when there are easy fixes to address the concerns.

This is the case when Kentucky has rushed to get to near bottom for allowing Kentuckians to obtain REAL ID drivers licenses by the federal mandated Oct. 1, 2020, deadline. The REAL ID (Voluntary Travel ID) is necessary to board domestic flights in the nation unless you have a US passport or related acceptable document.

The 2005 federal REAL ID Act prohibits federal agencies, such as TSA, from accepting driver’s licenses that do not meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The law is designed to prevent persons from fraudulently obtaining driver’s licenses under false identities.

This writer successfully went through the process to obtain the REAL ID Tuesday in Frankfort. The staff were very helpful as the new administration works to ramp up the program.

It is frustrating for me and other Kentuckians to have to travel longer distances than necessary to ensure they can get the licenses as we move closer to the deadline.

Gov. Matt Bevin caused the delays by his actions related to passage of Senate Bill 245 at the close of the Kentucky General Assembly in 2016. Bevin made a video in support of the REAL ID bill which was approved the last day of the session. However, Bevin surprised legislators vetoing the bill after getting criticism from Tea Party activists who had helped him win his election. They, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a few legislators on both sides of the isle expressed privacy concerns.

The General Assembly passed House Bill 410 approving the REAL ID regulations in 2017 and was signed by Gov. Bevin. The House vote was 77-19 and the Senate vote 26-11. The main change from the REAL ID legislation in 2016 was dropping the requirement to have a birth certificate. Some legislators had concerns that the scanning of the birth certificates in a national archive would put citizens’ information at risk.

Gov. Andy Beshear

The federal government granted the extension to Oct. 1, 2020, while the state has had delays in rolling out the plans and offices to serve Kentuckians. Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray announced plans last week to expand REAL ID offices to meet the deadline approaching in just eight months. The four offices serve more 800,000 persons with the state population of 4.5 million. Frankfort was the first office followed by Bowling Green. The new offices are Somerset and Paducah.

The Frankfort driver’s license office is located on 200 Mero St., in Frankfort, Ky. In the KY Transportation office and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Vehicle Regulation office in Bowling Green is located at 360 E. Eighth Ave. in Stadium Park Plaza. The Paducah office is located at 2855 Jackson St., Hipp Building, Suite C and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The Somerset office is located at 650 North Main St., Suite 240 and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Gov. Beshear acknowledged during the joint press conference with Gray the state is playing catch up last week. “For years, there have been a lot of changes and uncertainty surrounding REAL ID – the federal ID requirements to board flights, enter a military base or visit some federal buildings, but that uncertainty has to end on Oct. 1,” Beshear said. “My administration is working tirelessly to catch our state up and bring us into compliance with the federal requirements. We must continue to act swiftly so all our families are served.”

Gray said the offices are among 12 initial regional offices planned statewide, with a central office opened in Frankfort last fall. Gray said as many as 30 offices may be added citing the need for immediate action. The locations of the initial 12 offices announced by the Cabinet last fall include Bowling Green, Paducah and Somerset as well as Manchester, Jackson, Prestonsburg, Morehead, Florence, Elizabethtown, Madisonville, Louisville and Lexington.

I learned from the staff and from talking to others this week that there is still confusion on REAL ID. One staff member said that since Fayette County was added to counties served by the Frankfort office the number of persons served jumped to 120 to 150 each day. He added that many people do not understand the necessary documents required for the Voluntary Travel ID. He added that persons who do not wish to use the license for air travel or to get into certain federal facilities can get their licenses in their local circuit clerk offices.

The persons who need additional documentation are those who have name changes due to marriage. A U.S. passport with the correct name addresses this need.

Residents applying for a Voluntary Travel ID card version must present documentation that meets specific guidelines, including one (1) valid proof of identity, one (1) valid proof of social security number (tax documents like a W-2 or 1099 which includes your social security number will work) and two (2) valid proofs of residency (dated less than 61 days for most documents).

Additional documentation may be required if an applicant’s name or gender doesn’t match on the four proof documents (like a marriage certificate or divorce decree if your names don’t match due to marriage or divorce). Applicants may need to reorder documents if they do not display legal names (like a nickname printed on a social security card).

One minor aggravation is the issuance of a temporary photocopy driver’s license stapled to your old license which has been punched to invalidate it. The new license is to be sent to your address within five to 10 business days. I had to pay $15.41 for the license which will expire in 2023 during my birth month. At that time the renewal fee will be $48.

An eight-year license that complied with the Real ID Act will cost $48. A standard license, also good for eight years, will cost $43. The current cost of a license is $20 for 4 years. Given the extra fees raised by HB 410, it is estimated that it would produce a net increase of just under $10 million a year in revenue for the state.

For Central Kentuckians, the Frankfort driver’s license office will continue to accept applications from Franklin County, Anderson County, Owen County, Henry County, Scott County, Shelby County, Woodford County and Fayette County residents.

To prepare and learn more about REAL ID-compliant licenses and read the IDocument Guide, Kentuckians should visit drive.ky.gov.

The state should have met the requirements of the 2005 federal REAL ID Act earlier, but we are getting closer.

Ron Daley has worked in higher education for 22 years and edited/published a weekly newspaper for 20 years in Eastern Kentucky. He is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame (2017) and lives in Lexington.

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