Two legislative leaders, one Democrat and one Republican, have proposed a bill to bring Washington into compliance with a federal law that requires changes to how driver’s licenses are issued.
But the proposal would mean that the state’s standard driver’s licenses would not be an acceptable form of identification to board an airplane. beginning in 2018.
If Washington does not take action to comply with the 2005 REAL ID Act, standard state driver’s licenses will, beginning in 2018, no longer be sufficient ID for federal purposes, such as to enter a military base or to board an airplane.
Washington, which does not require proof of citizenship or legal status to get a driver’s license, is one of only three states not in compliance with the federal law and does not have an extension from the federal government.
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The bill proposed by the chairs of the Legislature’s two transportation committees, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, would cement the two-tiered system of driver’s licenses in the state.
It would require all standard driver’s licenses to be marked saying they are not acceptable for official, federal purposes, such as air travel.
Under the bill, and under the law now, state residents can obtain an enhanced driver’s license or ID card, which does require proof of citizenship. Enhanced IDs are, and would continue to be, acceptable for air travel, or to cross the Canadian border.
Earlier this week, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced that it will begin posting signs in airports, to inform passengers that come 2018, they will need ID from a state that is in compliance with the federal law.
“Starting Jan. 22, 2018, if you have a driver’s license or ID issued by the state of Washington, you will need an alternate ID to fly,” read signs that will be posted in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport starting on Friday.
Under the bill, standard driver’s licenses would have to have a unique design or color, differentiating them from enhanced driver’s licenses. Standard Washington IDs are not enough for a person to get a visitor’s pass to military sites such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Yakima Training Center.
“To ensure citizens have uninterrupted access to air travel and federal facilities like JBLM, we needed to get our state in compliance with the federal mandate,” King said in a prepared statement. “We’ve had extensive deliberation on the best approach and I’m pleased with the result.”
The bill would reduce the fee for an enhanced driver’s licenses, from $108 to $90. After four years, the fee would revert to $108. The fee for a standard driver’s license would remain $54.
“It’s important for travelers to know that this isn’t a problem today, or even next year,” Clibborn said. “We are working together on a bipartisan solution.”