The Real ID Deal: State's circuit court clerks will no longer issue driver's licenses after June 30, 2022

Lisa Taylor works on a Real ID for Glenda Dowell from Hardinsburg on Wednesday at the Owensboro Real ID Regional Office inside the former Daviess County Operations Center at 2620 Kentucky Highway 81. After Oct. 1, people will not be able to fly domestic or enter a military base without a Real ID that also doubles as a driver’s license.

With the Owensboro Real ID Regional Office up and running, the next step will be to transition all driver’s license duties out of the hands of circuit court clerks.

The new regional office was established in mid-January inside the former Daviess County Operations Center at 2620 Kentucky 81.

Sarah Jackson, Real ID project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said June 30, 2022, has been set as the deadline for the permanent switchover.

“Every circuit clerk wants to know when we’re going to tell them when they’re finished … and we are definitely taking them month by month,” Jackson said. “The commissioner and I sit down and look at where it would be feasible to remove the duties from a circuit clerk.”

Jackson said uncertainties with the pandemic and staffing levels have made it hard to give an exact time frame, especially far out dates, on when and which circuit clerks’ offices will be removed from issuing driver’s licenses.

Jackson, however, said circuit court clerks will be given at least six weeks of notice as to when they’ll be moved off their licensing duties.

“During this transition, we’re going to be, as a cabinet, moving maybe eight, 10 or 12 in some months,” Jackson said. “It’s a very slow transition. Obviously, we can’t just flip a light switch and have all 120 clerks cease their duties and suddenly we’re all up and running.”

Currently, standard driver’s licenses and permits are being issued by the Daviess County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office from the downtown Morton J. Holbrook Judicial Center, 100 E. Second St.

Daviess County Circuit Clerk Jennifer Besecker said she hasn’t received any word about when her office will stop issuing standard driver’s licenses and hasn’t developed a final plan about what to do with the space or where the driver’s license employees will go.

“There have been no discussions regarding my office and driver’s licenses — nothing,” Besecker said. “There’s not been any talk of that. We’re going to cross that bridge when we get there.”

The Kentucky State Police also administers permit testing inside the same area of the Judicial Center as driver’s licenses.

Driver’s testing and written testing will remain a function of the KSP. Scheduling is now through the KSP’s website — kentuckystatepolice.org.

Jackson, however, said it has yet to be determined where the KSP driver’s testing office will be in Daviess County once the transition occurs.

“Some state police offices have already moved to our regional offices like in Lexington and Frankfort,” she said. “We hope that they’ll be right there close to us or with us in most places. (KSP) has not finalized all of their plans either. It’s been slow primarily due to the pandemic.”

Currently, there are 15 regional offices — Bowling Green, Burlington, Columbia, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Jackson, Lexington, Louisville-Hurstbourne, Madisonville, Morehead, Owensboro, Paducah, Prestonsburg, Richmond and Somerset.

There are also two appointment-only offices — Catlettsburg and Louisville-Bowman in the state. The final plan is to have 25 regional offices that will serve 120 counties.

“There will be pop-up driver’s licensing services that we will be required to bring to counties that don’t have a regional office,” Jackson said. “It will be based on population as to how many times a year we’ll visit. We’re working the program out now but we have the pop-up units. … We can do anything with this unit that we can do in our office in Owensboro.”

In the past, residents had to be issued their driver’s licenses in their home counties. However, regional offices can issue licenses to any resident regardless of where he or she lives in the state.

“If you have a child at Western Kentucky University and you’re going to be down there for a ballgame, you can schedule an appointment at our Bowling Green office,” Jackson said. “… This is just to make it very convenient.”

GENESIS AND PURPOSE OF REAL IDS

Real IDs came about through the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. It was a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, it has taken years for states to pass and implement the federal law.

“After the terrorist attacks, they set up the 9/11 Commission and it was one of the recommendations to come out of that commission,” Jackson said. “It was to increase the security and movements around key places — airports, federal buildings — that might be vulnerable.”

In 2020, Kentucky House Bill 453, sponsored by Sal Santoro, a Florence Republican, made the KYTC the sole application and issuance entity for operator’s licenses and personal identification cards while eliminating the requirements that these documents be applied for in one’s county of residence. The bill also expanded the pre-existing list of documents an applicant can use when applying, and allow applicants to choose between four to eight years before renewal.

Real IDs, which will double as driver’s licenses, will be necessary to fly domestic and enter military bases along with federal buildings that require identification. Federal buildings such as Social Security Administration and U.S. Postal offices will not require a Real ID for access.

The Real ID enforcement date is set for Oct. 1, 2021, and a person with a standard driver’s license will not be allowed to fly or enter federal buildings that require Real IDs. Other forms of compliant Real IDs include a U.S. passport, a U.S. Department of Defense issued ID or a Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler card.

“Some people will say they will never have a need for a Real ID,” Jackson said. “The only thing I’d like to caution people about is depending on where you may have family located across the country, or where you may have children in college … you may never know or expect to go on a domestic flight or a military base where a child may graduate. You would be prepared this way. It isn’t something you can get just over night.”

REAL ID DOCUMENT REQUIREMENTS

Before being issued a Real ID, there are certain documents a person must possess. The first category is proof of identity — a certified birth certificate or a valid passport.

The second category is proof of Social Security — an original Social Security card or a W2, or a 1099 from this year or last year with name and Social Security listed.

The third category is proof of address — two bills with a name and address. Acceptable examples would be a medical bill, utility bill and a magazine subscription.

Real IDs can either be issued for four years for $24 or eight years for $48. There is a $15 Real ID upgrade fee for people who recently received a new standard driver’s license.

A temporary 30-day document is issued that will serve for both Real ID and standard driver’s license. The hard card will come in the mail within 10 to 15 business days, according to Jackson.

HOW TO MAKE A REAL ID APPOINTMENTJackson said appointments can be made for a regional office at drive.ky.gov but walk-ins are accepted with exception of the two appointment-only offices.

“The walk-in wait time is averaging about five minutes,” said Jackson about the Owensboro regional office. “They encourage people to not go as a walk-in from 11 (a.m.) to 1 (p.m.). We will still take you if that’s the only time you have available to go. But we need to tell you that it will be a little longer wait time because we have two different lunch shifts. We have to give our employees that time off and we’re at half staff.”

Jackson said Real ID offers more modern services, convenience and “a much more secure identification system or credential.”

And in the future, Saturday hours will be offered, she said.

“We’re referring to this era in driver’s licensing as Next Level Driver’s Licensing,” she said. “… I think it puts Kentuckians in the driver’s seat a bit more by offering more choices.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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