Oklahoma’s drawn-out process — largely self-inflicted — to become compliant with the federal REAL ID law appears set to come to an end in April 2020.
That’s when state officials say Oklahoma will be able to bring its driver’s licenses up to federal standards, which have been required under legislation signed by President George W. Bush in 2005.
Oklahoma has been getting by through a series of extensions from the federal government, the latest of which expires Oct. 10. Without another extension, Oklahomans could find it harder to visit military bases, other federal buildings and board airplanes. That’s because our current state driver’s licenses don’t stand up to federal requirements. Without a federally compliant card, people will have to take their U.S. passport or another valid form of federal ID to access military bases and federal facilities, including Vance Air Force Base.
It would appear, though, Oklahoma will get one more extension to see us through until April.
The idea behind the REAL ID Act was one of national security, with the goal of making it harder for people to forge driver’s licenses, fortifying state procedures to confirm people’s identities and ensuring states are not giving licenses to terrorists.
Oklahoma lawmakers, though, made the process a lot harder than it had to be.
Citing concerns of federal overreach and privacy issues, legislators for years refused to get the ball rolling to bring Oklahoma into compliance. If fact, in 2007, the Legislature passed a bill forbidding the state from meeting provisions of the act.
At one point, the federal government offered to help the state pay for implementation, but lawmakers rejected that help, meaning the state will foot the entire bill — between $12 million to $18 million. Some of those costs were passed along through a $5 increase in the cost of an Oklahoma driver’s license.
In 2017, lawmakers finally came to their senses and passed legislation signed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin allowing state officials to start working on building a system in compliance with the act, which includes training tag agents and creating a centralized office to handle card manufacturing and storage.
That leaves us where we are today, with compliance coming in April 2020.
Hopefully, all the problems that could come into being in October won’t actually happen.
David Ostrowe, the state’s secretary of digital transformation and administration, said he expects Department of Homeland Security will grant state officials one final yearlong extension to reach compliance.
We hope that’s the case. If not, you only have to look as far at the state Capitol to see the reason why.