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Kentucky Scraps REAL ID Pilot Program Ahead Of 2020 Deadline

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Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
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Kentucky is once again delaying its REAL ID drivers licensing program, a little more than a year before the high-security licenses or a passport will be needed to board domestic airline flights.

The state Transportation Cabinet has abandoned its plan to issue the licenses through local circuit court clerks and now plans to set up regional centers around the state where drivers can apply for them.

The announcement comes after a series of delays implementing the enhanced licensing system that is mandated by a 2005 federal law that requires states to make identification systems more secure.

In a release, Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas said that the cabinet would work with the legislature “to consider implementing a network of regional offices” to issue the ID cards.

“The Cabinet believes this is the fastest and most efficient path forward to make REAL ID compliant cards available statewide before the federal deadline of October 2020,” the statement read.

The legislature will convene on Jan. 7 next year for lawmakers to write a two-year state budget.

Kentuckians will need a REAL ID license or a conventional driver’s license supplemented with a passport or other federal ID to board planes or enter military facilities starting Oct. 1, 2020.

Earlier this year, the Transportation Cabinet said that the new identification cards would be available statewide “by the end of the summer.”

The cabinet launched a pilot program to issue REAL ID licenses in Franklin and Woodford Counties earlier this summer with hopes of expanding efforts across the state, but has now abandoned the program.

According to the statement from the Transportation Cabinet, “the pilot program identified staffing and workload increases in Circuit Court Clerk offices that are not sustainable both in the short and long term.”

Kentucky has been granted a series of reprieves by the federal government while Kentucky tries to figure out how to implement the REAL ID program.

In 2016, Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed a REAL ID bill, saying there was “widespread misunderstanding of the issue.”

The REAL ID legislation was opposed by Tea Party groups and the ACLU of Kentucky, citing privacy concerns.

Then in 2017 Bevin signed a different version of the bill that allows Kentuckians to opt out of the REAL ID program by using traditional driver’s licenses that would not allow them to board airplanes.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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