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Regular Driver's License OK At Airports For At Least Two More Years

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security Friday extended its deadline for non-compliant states to raise ID card standards. That means a regular driver's license issued by Idaho, Oregon or Washington state will be acceptable identification to board an airplane for at least another two years.

States now have until January 22, 2018 to check off all the boxes for enhanced driver's license and ID card security. Idaho, Oregon and Washington have resisted this federal mandate called the REAL ID Act.

Idaho State Senator Brent Hill sees potential though to work this out.

"I'm not saying that everybody has to have the REAL ID, but we ought to have that in the state if we can do it for a reasonable cost for those who would like to go in even if they have got to pay 20 bucks or whatever to get the REAL ID,” Hill said. “Let them have that so they don't have to have a passport."

What Hill described resembles the "Enhanced Driver License" option Washington state began offering in 2008 to applicants who provide extra documentation of identity and U.S. citizenship. Washington state has issued about 500,000 enhanced driver's licenses.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005. It includes around 42 requirements to deter forgery, verify applicants' identities and provide for secure issuance of driver's licenses and ID cards.

In a statement Friday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said 23 states are fully compliant with the act. He reiterated that secure sources "of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists."

In the early years after Congressional approval, the legislatures of Northwest states passed laws forbidding their state agencies from complying with REAL ID.

"When that was first presented of course it was an unfunded federal mandate," Hill said. "There was a huge price tag to making that implementation."

Through the years though, Hill said his state's transportation department and others have made many of the demanded technology upgrades of their own volition.

"The price tag is much, much less than what it was when we originally looked at this," Hill said.

Within the last couple years, some sensitive federal facilities such as military bases, non-public areas of federal courthouses and nuclear facilities such as the Idaho National Laboratory and Hanford Nuclear Site have begun demanding REAL ID-compliant identification or presentation of a second form of identification.

But DHS has repeatedly deferred strict enforcement of REAL ID requirements at TSA airport checkpoints, which would affect far more people. Identification that is presently REAL ID-compliant includes passports, U.S. military ID, federally-recognized tribal photo IDs or airline or airport-issued ID.

Travelers with Oregon and Idaho documents had extensions valid through this October, but Washington state’s most recent request for an extension was denied last fall.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.