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Real ID bill zooms through House, heads to Senate

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Passengers wait to pass through the security checkpoint at Charleston International Airport. If the General Assembly does not pass a law to comply with the Real ID Act, S.C. travelers will need a form of identification approved by the federal government, such as a passport, to board planes. (Photo/Liz Segrist)A bill requiring state driver’s licenses and identification cards comply with the federal Real ID law zoomed through the state House of Representatives on Thursday by an overwhelming 100-3 vote. The measure now heads to the Senate.

If the General Assembly doesn’t pass a law to comply with the Real ID act, starting in January 2018 South Carolinians must come up with a form of identification that has been approved by the federal government, such as a passport or military ID card, to enter military bases, board planes at S.C. airports or visit the Social Security office.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the Real ID law enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

The 9/11 Commission found that 18 of the 19 hijackers who crashed passenger planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field had obtained 30 state-issued IDs, enabling them to more easily board planes on the morning of the terrorist attacks. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.

S.C. legislators, however, passed a law in 2007 saying South Carolina “shall not participate in the implementation of the federal Real ID Act.” Opponents of the act in S.C., led by former Gov. Mark Sanford, argued that the Real ID law required too much personal information and would lead to the federal government’s issuing ID cards instead of the states.

Despite the state’s defiance, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted South Carolina five extensions. But that ended last year when South Carolina learned that state-issued driver’s licenses and personal ID cards would not be an accepted form of ID as of Jan. 22.

The ban threatened to hinder companies that have workers entering military bases and other secured federal facilities. Commanders complained at the December meeting of the S.C. Military Base Task Force, according to a report in The State newspaper.

In early January, Homeland Security granted South Carolina and five other states an extension until June 6. But there was a hook: The General Assembly must pass a law saying the state intends to comply with Real ID.

Kevin Shwedo, executive director of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, told a Senate panel earlier this year that the state already meets 38 of the 44 standards required by Real ID.

Shwedo also told lawmakers that complying with the Real ID law could cost up to $93 million. Shwedo added he might be able to trim the cost to $26.5 million, assuming most South Carolinians won’t have an immediate need for a Real ID-compliant card.

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