Louisiana moves closer to offering REAL ID option

Staff Report

The Louisiana Senate Transportation Committee has unanimously approved a bill that would give drivers the option to choose be in compliance with the 2005 federal REAL ID Act. The bill is a part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legislative agenda for the 2016 Regular Session.  

Keeping our citizens safe is of the utmost importance to me, and today’s vote confirms that it is also a priority for members of this committee,” Edwards said.

An anti-terrorism recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, the REAL ID Act is designed to establish minimum standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards in order to  prevent anyone from obtaining a fraudulent driver’s license. Under this bill, if you choose to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or special identification card, you must present your identification documents, such as a birth certificate, to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles in order to verify your identity. If you choose to obtain a driver’s license that is not REAL ID- compliant, and you are not a first-time driver, you do not have to present your identification documents.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Louisiana is among the 22 states that have been granted an extension to align with the federal standards. The deadline for full compliance is October 1, 2016, unless a new extension is granted.

The day is coming when anyone who wants to take a commercial flight or enter a federal building where identification is required will have to present a REAL ID," Edwards said. "Louisiana citizens should be able to decide whether they want to have one. This will help protect our family, friends and communities and reinforce our sense of public safety which we all value.”

House Bill 702 is co-sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Harris of New Orleans and Rep. Terry Landry of New Iberia.

The REAL ID is good policy for our citizens and it’s optional,” Harris said. “It is not an infringement of anyone’s constitutional rights but it is a step toward strengthening our national security.”

To date, 23 states are REAL ID compliant and five are non-compliant. By October 1, 2020, every air traveler will be required to have a REAL ID or another acceptable form of identification for domestic flights. 

There are some people who want a REAL ID and some who do not, this bill accommodates both choices,” Landry said. “It is our responsibility as public servants to look out for the best interest of our people and this legislation will help keep us all as safe as possible.”

"Let’s not be last in giving our citizens the right to get a REAL ID driver’s license if it is something they want,” said Karen St. Germain, Secretary of the Office of Motor Vehicles. “We have delayed implementation long enough and the time has come to make this option available in our state.”

Next, HB 702 will be considered by the Louisiana Senate.