Whitesburg KY

After getting my Real ID, I have one question. How did state screw up so badly?


When an editor suggested I apply for a Real ID and write about how difficult the process was, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea.

At the very worst, I get paid for spending the better part of the day doing something I’m going to end up doing on my own time anyway, and Gannett reimburses me for the gas the old pickup burns on the way to and from Frankfort.

After spending most of the day Thursday collecting documents, driving to Frankfort and standing in lines, the only thing I can come away with is that we, in Kentucky, are idiots.


What is wrong with us?

Even Hoosiers got this all squared away. In 2012!

And we’re still struggling with it.

The day before an editor suggested I do this, Gov. Andy Beshear and Transportation Secretary Jim Gray had announced that the rollout of the new federally compliant driver’s licenses was a mess they inherited from former Gov. Matt Bevin, and they were making changes that may or may not help matters.

The IDs came out of the 9/11 Commission findings and are intended to make air travel and government buildings safer. Starting at some point, you’ll be required to present one of these IDs or a passport to board commercial aircraft or enter a federal government facility.

Congress passed a law requiring the more secure IDs in 2005.

The deadline for states doing this has already been pushed back a couple of times. First it was 2016. Then it was 2017. Then, the Feds pushed it back to 2018. Now, it’s October of this year.

And it looks like the Feds are DEAD SERIOUS this time.

If you don’t have the Real ID by then, you won’t be able to board a commercial airplane or enter a federal government building – unless you want to carry a passport. And mine expired a decade ago.

To get one of these newfangled driver’s licenses, you’ve got to present four different types of documentation to prove you are who you say you are and live where you say you do.

So here’s the problem.

The law requiring these advanced IDs passed in 2005, and we in Kentucky still have not figured this out yet. Are you kidding me?

I don’t blame the bureaucrats. No. No. No. No. No.

It starts with the Kentucky General Assembly that screwed this up in bipartisan fashion from the very beginning.

Liberals didn’t like it because they were concerned about whether your information would be safe in the government’s hands. Conservatives and conspiracy theorists were worried about a “national ID.”

In 2006, the state Senate refused to even give a hearing to a resolution to study Real ID, which by then was already the law of the land.

Then in 2009, bipartisan measures in both the House and Senate called for the state to not comply with the federal Real ID law. They both failed. The next year, a similar measure in the Senate, led by a couple of Democrats, failed again.

Even though those measures failed, Transportation officials couldn’t really push forward because the legislature still hadn’t given them authority to do so.

And then in 2016, it really got crazy. New Gov. Matt Bevin wrote a letter to the Senate asking them to pass a law authorizing use of Real ID in Kentucky. It and the House approved the bill. And then he vetoed it.



Finally, the General Assembly passed a bill approving Real ID in 2017.

But by then, it was really too late since the state is required to have a centralized office to issue the Real ID driver’s licenses. In Kentucky we’ve had a weird setup since 1934 in which circuit court clerks issued all driver’s licenses.

This has required the Transportation Cabinet to open its own offices around the state and hire and train the staff who verify documents and process applications.

So now we’re stuck with just a handful of offices across the state where you can apply for the new licenses because the state Transportation Cabinet didn’t have the time to plan and put the new process into place.

And that’s why this is a mess.

The good news is that the system runs fairly smoothly – but that is bound to change as we get nearer October and more people are clamoring for the IDs.

My biggest problem was I couldn’t find my birth certificate — one of the documents I needed — and so it required a 40-minute visit to the state Office of Vital Statistics at the state Cabinet for Families and Children in Frankfort, a building that has all the charm of a Soviet gulag or a Nazi pillbox, to obtain one.

Once at the state Real ID office, I stood in line for 25 minutes before I was able to turn in my birth certificate, my social security card, my old driver’s license and a copy of the deed to my house. (There are other documents you can use or might need, including your wedding license if you took your spouse’s name. Check out drive.ky.gov/Docs/AcceptableDocumentsVTID. pdf for what you need to bring)

After another short wait, a pleasant young woman in a cubicle checked over my documents, snapped a new mug shot, took my money ($15.46 for a license that will expire in 2022) and gave me a temporary license to tide me over until my Real ID comes in the mail.

I walked out 42 minutes after I walked in.

If only the Kentucky General Assembly was so efficient.

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