The S.C. House on Wednesday passed, 100-3, a measure that would bring the state’s driver’s licenses in line with federal security standards.
Called Real ID, the new licenses are required for S.C. citizens to be able to use their driver’s licenses to enter military installations, federal buildings or even board an airliner. Without a federally approved ID, visitors would have to show another form of federally accepted identification, primarily a passport, to gain entry.
The state has been operating on a series of exemptions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The most recent set June 6 as the deadline to close access to installations to South Carolinians without a federally accepted ID, including Fort Jackson in Columbia and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
Starting in January 2018, S.C. driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted to board an airplane unless the state conforms its driver’s licenses to federal standards. However, if the Legislature passes the new ID law, the state is expected to get another extension of those deadlines.
“This is a safety net,” said state Rep. Mark Willis, R-Greenville, the bill’s sponsor. “And we need to get it done by the end of the year.”
Opponents say Real ID is an example of federal overreach. They also fear the establishment of a federal database would jeopardize the privacy of S.C. citizens.
“As a conservative Republican, there aren’t many things I agree with the ACLU on,” said state Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson. “But the ACLU has numerous privacy concerns.”
Bills filed in the Legislature would begin the process of making the state’s driver’s licenses comply with the George W. Bush-era federal law, including an eight-year renewal period, rather than the 10-year state period.
The House bill imposes a $25 fee to get a new driver’s license. Money raised from that fee would pay for added workers and equipment the state Department of Motor Vehicles will need to issue new licenses.
The agency estimates it will have to add more than 100 employees to handle what is expected to be a rush, when the new licenses are released in October.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The idea behind the law was that secure, modern identification should be consistent across the country, and it should be linked to the data the individual used to get the driver’s license.
The terrorists who carried out those attacks used driver’s licenses issued in Florida and Virginia as identification to board airplanes they crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.