SALEM — Oregon lawmakers have advanced a proposal that would allow the state to issue state driver's licenses and identification cards in compliance with federal standards borne after the 9/11 attacks beginning in the next three years.
Senate Bill 374 passed on Monday of committee with unanimous support and now heads to the Senate floor.
Even if the proposal ultimately becomes law, Oregon residents thinking about booking flights for next year's family vacation or work trips still might consider getting their passports updated beforehand if need be.
In January, the Transportation Security Administration will begin enforcing the federal 2005 Real ID Act at U.S. airports, meaning state-issued IDs that aren't in compliance or don't have a special extension will be useless for domestic travel, requiring travelers to instead use their passports or some other alternative.
Oregon's third federal extension expired last week and is now in a grace period until July 10, buying a little more time for entering certain federal buildings or military bases where the Real ID law is also enforced. Passage of a Real ID law like SB 374 had usually be enough to help the state secure another extension.
Now noncompliant states may no longer get a break, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly recently told Congress.
"We are somewhat concerned by comments made by the Secretary of Homeland Security to Congress last week, which would tend to indicate somewhat less confidence that we would be granted extensions, even with passage of a bill," Amy Joyce, legislative liaison for the Oregon Department of Transportation, told the Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee on Monday. "He intends to make a decision this week regarding additional extensions, so time is of the essence."
About half the country is now in compliance with the federal law, meaning those residents have until Oct. 21, 2020, before being required to show the REAL ID compliant identification. Most of the remaining states, including Oregon, have been granted various extensions; several of them passed bills addressing REAL ID this year, including Washington state, Maine, Minnesota, Alaska, Montana and Missouri.
Oregon began the compliance process in 2008, but those efforts were blocked the following year when the Legislature passed a law prohibiting further progress unless federal funds were made available.
Eight years later, lawmakers are now reconsidering that ban through SB 374, which would allow the DMV offices to issue Real ID-compliant driver's licenses and other forms only by request of the applicant. The state's costs of the compliance are intended to be covered through higher fees paid by the applicant.
"Now is the time to act," said Sen. Bill Hansell, a Republican and chief co-sponsor with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward. "We need to do all we can to allow Oregonians to travel by plane, work in federal facilities and have access to the locations they need."