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"At airport security, signs point to confusion about driver'slicenses"


Tuesday, February 21, 2017


At airport security, signs point to confusion about driver's licenses

By Catharine Hamm

The Los Angeles (CA) Times


                                                A TSA agent checks an id under a Fraud Fighter machine in Terminal 1 at LAX.

In my recent travels through Las Vegas and Long Beach airports, I have seen a Transportation Security Administration notification that prompts my question. It mentions that in 2018, driver’s licenses and state identification cards must comply with federal government standards in order to be used to board an airplane.  I am curious if I will have problems for future flights. I recently received my renewed California driver’s license.


Paul Perez



Answer: The signs Perez writes about have to do with Real ID, an effort to make driver’s licenses comply with federal standards.


Signs that went up toward the end of 2016, when Obama was still president, said, “Starting Jan. 22, 2018, you will need an alternate ID to fly if you have a driver’s license or ID issued by any of the following states: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.”


In small print below, the signs explain that the Real ID act “establishes the minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like the TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards for certain official purposes, including boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft from states that do not meet these standards.”


Another sign directs you to TSA’s website for more information. You can find that information at www.lat.ms/tsandrealid.


How did we get to this point and what does it mean to you? It has been a long and winding road and could change again with the new administration.


The 9/11 Commission, convened after the attacks, addressed perceived weaknesses in identification. Congress in 2005 OK’d a law that toughened requirements for driver’s licenses.


Simple math tells you it has been easier to make the law than to put it in place.


Slow forward to 2016 when a series of deadlines (2016, 2018 and 2020) were set up for driver’s license compliance.


To see which states are OK, check out the Department of Homeland Security map at www.lat.ms/dhscompliancemap, a sort of naughty/nice list that shows which states’ licenses are OK (23 states and the District of Columbia) and which are not.


But click on Missouri, for instance, and it gives you a big red bar that says “Not compliant.” Then it explains that as of January 2016 (the first Real ID deadline), Missouri licenses could be used for identification to get on a plane but not for entrance to nuclear power plants and federal facilities.


By Jan. 22, 2018 (the second deadline), Missouri license holders “will need an alternative identification to fly in the U.S. and access federal facilities,” the site says.


Which brings us to California, which is painted yellow on the site and has a lot of company, including Oregon, Idaho and Texas.


When you click on California, it tells you that our state has an extension and that Californians “can continue to use your license to fly in the U.S. and access federal facilities and nuclear power plants.”


But the Oct. 1, 2020, (third) deadline? Unclear at this point whether California licenses will be OK.


I asked the California Department of Motor Vehicles for an update on where we are. Here is the official statement that was sent:


“The DMV strongly supports the goal of ensuring there is one license, one record and one identity for each Californian. We will continue to implement practices to comply with the intent of the law while ensuring privacy protections and minimizing impacts to the over 30 million Californians who already have a driver license or identification card.”


Uh huh. That’s helpful. On the other hand, given some of the uncertainty about implementation under a new set of administrators, the state can’t say for sure because it doesn’t know what’s going to happen.


What is certain: Californians are fine for now. We may be fine by the 2020 deadline . We don’t know yet and probably won't be for a while.


I believe in built-in redundancies, as anyone knows who has asked me for a pen and is offered one of a dozen from my purse. I now carry my Global Entry card when I travel.


It is among the acceptable forms of ID for airport checkpoints.(You can see the list at www.lat.ms/acceptableid.) And by 2020, it just may be the key to boarding a plane.


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