‘REAL ID’ causing real headaches for lawmakers as deadline approaches

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- If state lawmakers don't come to an agreement on REAL ID before a June 6 federally mandated deadline, Pennsylvania citizens could see what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.

Fears exist that if the commonwealth doesn't repeal its 2012 law indicating it won't comply with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, the United States Department of Homeland Security could keep Pennsylvanians without federally approved identification from boarding planes.

Act 38 of 2012 is the law which bars the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation from participating in the federal law. Pennsylvania is one of 12 states which continues to not be fully compliant with REAL ID, after receiving multiple deadline extensions.

"Our ability to board airplanes and get into federal facilities will be impacted in two weeks. Frankly, it's gone too far," said Rep. Matt Bradford, minority chairman of the House State Government Committee.

Senate Bill 133 would repeal Act 38. However, State House and Senate leaders cannot agree on language within the bill.

Democrats, like Bradford, thought Pennsylvania would have no problem reaching compliance once the Senate approved SB133 through a bipartisan 46-2 vote. However, Republicans changed the language in the bill in the State Government Committee.

Among the changes include installing a two-tiered identification system, which includes making one ID available for air travel, which is to be paid through federal grant money supplied to PennDOT, and another ID which would allow access to air travel and federal buildings. Citizens would have to pay an extra fee for the federal identification. A third form of identification is a standard drivers license, which wouldn't allow air travel or federal access.

"If you force everybody to do this, and everybody to pay, that wouldn't be fair," said Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny).

Saccone says since not everyone wants a federal government identification card, people shouldn't have to. Those who want to be able to fly, or access federal buildings, still can.

"This satisfies the diversity of taxpayers in Pennsylvania, and allows them to have their cake and eat it too," Saccone said.

The other change, which is causing the most concern, focuses on what opponents feel is not fully repealing the 2012 state law. Inside the bill, the act is to be called the "Pennsylvania REAL ID Nonparticipation Act." That wording will not be approved by Homeland Security, according to Bradford.

"The House is relying on language the federal government won't accept," he said.

The Senate agrees. Once the full House approves the REAL ID changes written by the State Government Committee, the Senate Rules Committee which change the language once again, eliminating the line about "nonparticipation" so to adhere to Homeland Security wishes, according to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa.

Costa, who adds the Senate is willing to accept the two-tiered ID system even with its additional cost to the commonwealth, expects the Senate to send SB133 back to the House on Tuesday, with the hope the House approves.

After Tuesday, only two session days will remain for the House and Senate to come to an agreement.

"We recognize we have to get something done," Costa said. "This is a place where we have to compromise."

Governor Wolf expressed his desire with the Senate approved bill.