DHS-granted extension won’t resolve REAL ID mess, without further action from Harrisburg

As Washington, D.C. is attempting to bridge a deep partisan divide, Pennsylvania is starting this year on a different note as both sides of the aisle are united in fixing a problem that has been creeping up on us for years. 

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Gov. Tom Wolf joined legislative leaders from both parties in the Senate and the House to make a commitment to put the state on the right track to comply with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. The letter also requested an extension to give the state time to comply. 

Thankfully, DHS relented and granted Pennsylvania an extension through June, but what was, and in many ways still is, at risk should not be understated. 

If the feds had not granted the commonwealth an extension, by the end of the month Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and ID cards would not have been accepted at up to 257 federal buildings, nuclear power plants and military bases throughout the state, not to mention at countless of other similar sites throughout the country.

By January 2018, our state identification would no longer be accepted for domestic air travel. Sounds crazy? It is. But, unless further action is taken, every Pennsylvanian will need a passport to fly commercially, even from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

The short extension granted to us from DHS is great news, as it gives the General Assembly time to address this impending nightmare.

Sen. Kim Ward and I have already introduced identical legislation, H.B. 150 and S.B. 133, which would resolve the underlying noncompliance issue and allow PennDOT to work towards meeting the enhanced security standards.

I urge my colleagues in the House and the Senate not to celebrate about this extension for too long. Work still needs to be done to ensure that Pennsylvania’s IDs will continue to be accepted and remain secure from fraud.

Sincerely,
Ed Neilson
State Representative
174th Legislative District