Yes, Virginia, with step one of Real ID enforcement having begun Feb. 1, and a tough new administration in Washington, it may just be possible that your driver’s license will not be accepted for air travel a year from now.
Under a new tough-talking president and his new administration, the opposition to the Real ID Act appears to be crumbling. For the past year, the Department of State has been reminding eight states and their travelers that their drivers’ licenses do not meet federal requirements, and that in exactly one year from now they will not be accepted as identification for travelers trying to board international flights.
But even as TMR reported the story over the past months, no one seemed to really believe it would ever come to that. Citing the high cost of changing their drivers’ licenses to a more secure technology, many states have gotten extensions to the deadline. And indeed, some vowed to not comply at all, opposing the collection of more data on those applying for driver’s licenses as a violation of their citizen’s rights to privacy, and a veiled attempt to identify illegal immigrants.
But effective February 1, the first step in the Real ID took effect; Americans in states whose driver’s licenses are not compliant ca no longer use them as ID to gain entrance to nuclear power plants, air force bases or other military installations.
And suddenly, lawmakers seem to be changing their tune.
In Minnesota, a state Senate Committee on Tuesday moved to authorize the switch to Real ID-compliant drivers’ licenses, and local press quoted airport officials saying airlines are reluctant to sign contracts in Minnesota, and leisure travelers may already be staying away.
“Between the TSA wait lines and parking and those challenges that they have already, you throw this into the mix and I’m not sure if they have the right ID,” said Mitch Killian, of the Minnesota Airports Commission. “We are convinced that we are already seeing passengers choosing not to travel because of the challenges that are out there.”
In Maine, Governor LePage said he is urging the legislature to pass a bill to put the state in compliance with the federal Real ID Act despite a state law that specifically prohibits it.
"We should adopt it; we should have Real ID," the governor said. "Do I like what the federal government is doing with the additional intrusion in our lives? No. But at the same time, I think it came about because of what happened on 9/11. So you've got to weigh the pros and cons. And keeping the country safe is really important."