HELENA — The state of Montana received another extension Wednesday before it has to begin complying with the REAL ID Act, the federal law that imposes stricter requirements on identification used for flights and access to some facilities.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told the Montana Motor Vehicles Division that it has until next October to begin meeting the federal requirements.
Until then, Montana driver’s licenses will be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration to board domestic, commercial flights and to access federal facilities.
The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission recommended the federal government set minimum standards for issuing identification such as driver’s licenses.
In 2007, Montana’s Legislature passed a law forbidding implementation of the act, in part because officials opposed storing images of documents that people present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates.
Homeland Security began enforcing the requirements in 2013, and Montana received two extensions but was denied a third last October because of the state law.
The 2017 Legislature passed a bill saying Montana would begin complying with the REAL ID Act, which cleared the way for the extension, said MVD Administrator Sarah Garcia.
The extension gives the division time to develop procedures, hire staff and purchase equipment needed to implement REAL ID, she said.
State officials say they plan to have REAL ID compliant driver’s licenses available to people who want them beginning in January 2019. The Motor Vehicles Division will seek another extension to give it more time to reach full compliance, officials said.
Members of Montana’s Congressional delegation have introduced legislation seeking to overturn the REAL ID Act. They argued Montana has made changes to its driver’s licenses and identification cards that meet federal requirements without sacrificing privacy rights or subjecting residents to unnecessary cybersecurity risks.
Twenty-six states are compliant with the law and others have obtained or sought extensions.
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