Oklahoma Senate panel approves REAL ID compliance measure

Pictured: The Oklahoma State Capitol.
By: 
Tim Talley
The Associated Press

(AP) — Members of an Oklahoma Senate panel on Wednesday criticized the costs of bringing the state's drivers licenses into compliance with a federal anti-terrorism law before deciding to send the proposal to the floor for a final vote.

Following more than one hour of discussion and debate, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 34-9 for the House-passed measure and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. If approved by the Senate, the bill will be sent to Gov. Mary Fallin, who is expected to sign it into law.

Fallin has made REAL ID compliance a priority for the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature. During her state of the state address on Feb. 6, Fallin urged lawmakers "to solve this issue" and comply with the federal law that was signed by former President George W. Bush four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Federal investigators say the 9/11 hijackers obtained valid identification cards from various states. A commission that reported on the attacks recommended the federal government develop standards for issuing identification cards to help prevent terrorism and fraud.

The federal law imposes tougher requirements for proof of legal U.S. residency in order for state driver's licenses to be valid for federal purposes. But a 2007 Oklahoma law prevents the state from fully implementing REAL ID, which involves adding security features to state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards.

Oklahoma is one of seven states that have received a limited extension from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow state-issued IDs to be accepted at federal agencies through June 6, but Oklahoma IDs cannot be used to board a commercial aircraft if they are not compliant by January 2018. The other states are Alaska, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the agency's website.

Opponents claim the law is an invasion of privacy and allows the federal government to establish a database to monitor citizens.

"I do have a frustration with the federal government saying we have to do this," Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, said while debating against the bill.

Others cited the cost of compliance. Under the measure, motorists will have the option of getting licenses that either comply with the law or do not, but the cost of all Oklahoma drivers licenses will rise $5 to $38.50 for a four-year renewal.

"The real motivation is a revenue stream," said Sen., Marty Quinn, R-Claremore.

But supporters said many Oklahomans want the state to comply with the federal law.

"I have had countless number of constituents ask me when we are going to fix this," said Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, chairwoman of the committee.

"We really have no other choice," said Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee. If the state does not comply, Oklahomans will be barred from entering federal facilities or board a commercial aircraft with state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards, he said.

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