In just 16 days, Oklahoma’s waiver to comply with REAL ID standards, allowing  Oklahomans to have their state identification recognized by federal agencies, will expire.
REAL ID, according to the state Department of Public Safety, is a coordinated effort by the states and the federal  government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents in order to deter the ability of terrorists in forging fraudulent documents.
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Oct. 13 of last year that updates for REAL ID for 32 states and territories, including Oklahoma, must be met, or federal agencies won’t accept driver’s licenses and other documents for official uses from states unless the Department of Homeland Security decides that standards are satisfied.
Some of these official uses include boarding aircraft and accessing various federal facilities. However, the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards until Jan. 22, 2018, thanks to a staggered rollout of enforcement, which may be viewed on the state DPS website.
The Oklahoma Legislature, currently in a recessed special session aimed at fixing the ongoing budget crisis, is strained and will seek another extension this month, according to the office of Gov. Mary Fallin.
Communications Director for the Governor’s office Michael McNutt said the U.S. Department of Security only grants yearlong extensions each October, which will be routine for the state until the budget is rectified.
“We will be in the position of requesting annual extensions until we are fully compliant with REAL ID,” McNutt said.
HB1845 was passed during the 2017 legislative session, allowing the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. DPS anticipates 24-30 months from the time a contract is signed by a vendor before any REAL ID compliant documents will be issued.
“It requires time, resources and training to meet the full requirements, which we will likely be phasing in over time due to budget constraints,” McNutt said.
Meanwhile, the state is still grappling with constrained funds. The current special session is at a call to chair, which means lawmakers are working outside of office and won’t meet until solid plans are in line for a vote.
Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) said their current top priority is filling the budget, indicating that further legislation to bolster HB1845 could be on hold.
“We’re looking at different ideas and plans now that we’re not using taxpayer dollars,” Ownbey said. “I think it’s going to be a while.”
The state will eventually have to figure out a way of full implementation, even though the standards stem from federal mandates. Amber Savage, field representative for Congressman Tom Cole who represents Oklahoma’s fourth congressional district, said the onus falls on state lawmakers.
“While REAL ID is a federal mandate, the compliance happens at the state level,” Savage said.