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REAL ID is here to stay but is it right for me?

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By Sen. Jimmy Higdon

 FRANKFORT – There has been a lot of chatter about Kentucky rolling out new driver’s licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID Act enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks. The licenses are currently available in Franklin and Woodford counties. Other counties are expected to follow suit in the coming months. 

What I don’t want to get lost in the conversation is all residents of Kentucky don’t have to go through the hassle of getting the new REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses. I’m not planning to get one, and I suspect others might find the new type of licenses unnecessary too. 

If you don’t want a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, your current Kentucky driver’s license is still valid and will continue to be until its renewal date. When that time comes, simply turn in your old license for a new standard driver’s license. It’s no big deal because nothing changes with the renewal process if you choose to stay with the standard driver’s license. You can still use the standard license to

• apply for or receive federal benefits;

• access health and medical services;

• participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations;

• operate a vehicle in Kentucky and across the country;

• and vote or register to vote. 

These facts also apply to commercial and motorcycle licenses, permits and state-issued personal identification cards. 

You do not need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license unless you plan to board a U.S. airline flight or enter select facilities, like federal courthouses, nuclear power plants, the White House or military bases, after Sept. 30 of next year. But even then, a valid passport or passport card will allow you to enter any of these places. I plan to get a passport card and keep my standard driver’s license. A passport card can be purchased for $65 if you currently have a valid passport.

If you do get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, be mentally prepared. These new licenses are a drastic change from business as usual at your local circuit court clerk’s office. You are going to have to produce a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of residency – even if the clerk behind the counter has known you for years. It will not matter if you are on a first-name basis. Please be patient with your circuit court clerks. This process is also complicated for them.

Kentucky delayed complying with the REAL ID Act as long as it was possible. Many had wishfully thought the feds would abandon the mandate. That never happened and now Kentucky is racing to meet the federal deadline.

As a longtime member of the Senate Transportation Committee and current vice-chair, I will continue to monitor Kentucky’s rollout and alert you of any relevant, new details. More information on obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses, including costs and when they will be available in your county, is available at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet website https://drive.ky.gov/ConfidentKY. 

As you read this article, the Kentucky General Assembly will be in special session. Gov. Matt Bevin announced on July 15 that he would be convening the legislature into special session. Kentucky legislators will be voting on a proposed bill submitted by the governor. It is designed to address the financial stress caused by the state’s looming public pension crisis on Kentucky’s quasi-agencies, including regional universities, health departments, domestic violence centers and community health centers. I will discuss that issue in a future article.