Kentucky Politics

Kentucky’s transportation cabinet is moving forward with its plan to set up twelve hubs across the state to issue Real ID driver’s licenses.

The enhanced identification cards will be required to board commercial air flights and enter military bases starting in October of next year unless a passport, military ID or other accepted identification is provided.

Kentucky Vehicle Regulation Commissioner Matt Henderson said that with less than a year until the deadline, setting up regional centers for citizens to obtain the ID cards is the fastest option.

“We want to make sure that these credentials are made available to the citizens of this state prior to that date. And the fastest, most effective route to do that is to stand up regional offices,” Henderson said.

The cabinet has already begun setting up Real ID hubs around the state at twelve sites — Paducah, Madisonville, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, Florence, Somerset, Manchester, Jackson, Prestonsburg and Morehead.

Henderson said that in the future, the program could ultimately be 28 to 30 regional centers for people to obtain the ID cards.

In September, the cabinet scrapped its plan to have circuit court clerks issue Real IDs, saying that “staffing and workload increases” made the program unsustainable.

Incoming Gov. Andy Beshear will soon take over the initiative, which has been delayed by legislative inaction, a veto from Gov. Matt Bevin and, more recently, logistical difficulties.

Henderson said that Kentucky’s current Real ID law doesn’t allow the cards to be issued by regional hubs and that the legislature will have to take further action on the issue.

“It’s imperative that as we enter into this next legislative session that we have legislation that enables this process to go forward to ensure that we can offer these credentials to the citizens of the state of Kentucky,” Henderson said.

Henderson also said that it would be up to Beshear’s administration to decide whether to allow citizens to get Real IDs at any of the hubs, no matter where they live.

Real ID was mandated by a 2005 federal law that requires states to make identification systems more secure following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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. But for people who choose that option, other identification like a passport or military ID will be needed to board airplanes.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.