Bill offering new drivers’ licenses clears Ky. House

By Adam Beam - Associated Press

FRANKFORT (AP) — A bill to let Kentuckians replace their drivers’ licenses with a “voluntary travel ID” easily cleared the House of Representatives on Tuesday as the state faces a deadline to either upgrade its IDs or force its residents to buy passports for domestic flights.

Lawmakers approved House bill 410 by a vote of 77-19, sending the bill to the state Senate in the waning days of the legislative session. The bill would let Kentuckians replace their standard drivers’ license with a “voluntary travel ID.” The voluntary ID would cost $5 more, but it would comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005 so Kentuckians could use it to enter military bases and board domestic flights starting next year. Anyone without that new license would have to use some other form of identification, such as a passport.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It seeks to beef up security surrounding state-issued drivers’ licenses and ID cards. The deadline to comply with the law has long since passed, but the federal government has given Kentucky and 20 other states an extension to comply with the law. That extension expires in June and likely will not be renewed unless lawmakers pass this bill.

The only difference between a standard drivers’ license and a voluntary travel ID is people have to bring in copies of their birth certificates and social security cards to verify their identities. That prompted pressure from both ends of the political spectrum, with the American Civil Liberties Union and Republicans from conservative districts uniting to criticize the bill as an invasion of privacy. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed a similar bill last year after previously asking lawmakers to pass it.

But this year, Bevin has promised to sign the law and Republicans added language to the proposal to make sure nobody’s birth certificate would be scanned and stored on a federal server. Instead, it will be scanned and stored on a state server.

“No Kentucky citizen … will ever have to give their birth information, to a scan or a copy or anything like that, that goes to our federal government,” said Republican state Rep. Jim DuPlessis, who sponsored the bill.

The bill also would charge non-U.S. citizens an extra $30 to obtain a drivers’ license, money DuPlessis said would offset the cost to verify their documentation. And it would increase security at circuit court clerk offices, which are responsible for issuing the licenses.

Republican state Rep. Brian Linder voted against the bill because he said his constituents were angry the federal government was forcing the state to change its drivers’ licenses. He added he most likely would not get a voluntary travel ID himself, because he already has a passport.

“At some point we’ve got to stand up to the federal government and say, ‘no,’” he said.

By Adam Beam

Associated Press

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