At the eleventh hour, Feds grant Oklahoma ‘REAL ID’ reprieve

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced this week that Oklahoma has received an extension through October 10, 2016, to meet the requirements in the REAL ID Act.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed the state in a letter that “for the duration of this extension, Federal agencies may accept Oklahoma-issued drivers’ licenses and identification cards for official purposes in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and existing agency policies.”

“This is great news for Oklahomans and means there will be no restrictions on individuals using Oklahoma licenses to fly or access federal buildings through October 10 of next year,” said Fallin in an October 15 press release from her office.

“In the meantime, I will work this legislative session with the Legislature, DPS, Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and the Department of Homeland Security on a permanent solution.”

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety had just days before announced a three-month grace period before implementation of new mandates for high-tech “real IDs” for Oklahomans. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security conveyed the extension to state officials. 

Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, and Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, had previously filed legislation to resolve Oklahoma’s ongoing non-compliance.

Sparks said at that time, “This bill will ensure that Oklahoma’s driver licenses and identification cards meet the requirements set forth in the Act. This will guarantee Oklahomans are not inconvenienced or at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with federal agencies, accessing military installations, or … boarding a commercial aircraft.”

The Real ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in May of 2005. The extension saves local travelers hassles, but Oklahoma is not yet compliant with the Act due to provisions enacted in 2007.

Without the grace period, beginning October 10, anyone with business at a federal court, social security office or military installation could not have entered those facilities without a passport.

Sparks reflected, “When you think of all the military installations we have in our state, plus the federal courts and social security offices, it is easy to see this [would have been] a huge disruption for Oklahomans who need to access these facilities.”

Sen. Sparks continued, “We’re not just talking about the military personnel and civilians who work there-this impacts everyone, from FedEx employees dropping off and picking up packages to the person delivering bread to the commissary. We cannot afford to interrupt day-to-day business at our federal buildings and military installations. “

Sen. Floyd said in the previous release from state Senate staff, “By filing this legislation, we can at least ensure that this solution will be on the table when session starts in February 2016.” 

Minority Leader Sparks said, “We need to work diligently to resolve this problem before thousands of Oklahomans who don’t have passports find they can’t board a commercial flight or do business at a federal facility because our state failed to act.”

NOTE: Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.