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Martinez measure creating REAL ID license option becomes law

martinez 082217SPRINGFIELD — Drivers can now apply for a driver’s license that meets federal ID requirements and makes it easier for them to fly, with Gov. Bruce Rauner signing legislation today that Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) advanced out of the Senate earlier this year.

House Bill 395, which Martinez sponsored in the Senate, creates a two-tiered REAL ID system under which applicants for drivers’ licenses and identification cards may choose to apply for either a REAL ID-compliant license/ID card or a non-compliant license/ID card. Becoming REAL ID-compliant is a federal requirement.

“The two-tiered system gives people the option to decide what’s best for them,” Martinez said. “If someone doesn’t need to fly or simply chooses to not go with the REAL ID-compliant license/ID card, then there is an option that will work for them.”

Illinois has been taking strides to become fully REAL ID-compliant and has an extension from the federal government to become compliant by October 2017. However, the Department of Homeland Security has said that by January, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license issued in a state that is not compliant with the REAL ID Act will have to show an alternative form of identification to board a plane.

Under the new law, applicants for REAL ID-compliant identification must present documents including a certified copy of their birth certificate and immigration documents or a U.S. passport. Non-compliant licenses and ID cards will be issued pursuant to current requirements.

“Since the federal government is requiring Illinois to become REAL ID-compliant, the question becomes how to best go about doing this,” Martinez said. “The two-tiered system, which has been used in other states, is the best way for Illinois to have a system in place that meets the needs of our citizens.”

States such as Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia and Wisconsin offer the two options. In Wisconsin, only 22 percent of citizens have chosen to apply for the REAL ID-compliant card. Wisconsin officials have stated that many citizens who do not fly or visit federal facilities have opted for the noncompliant card.  

The federal REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, establishes standards for issuing identification cards and prevents federal agencies from accepting identification cards from states that have not implemented the act’s requirements.

House Bill 395 takes effect immediately.