With so much going on each day, there are a number of important matters not getting as much attention. That’s understandable.
One of the things that happens when we face unexpected disasters, tragedies and events is reviewing what happened and why. We look at the circumstances and determine what can be better and, generally, our appointed and elected officials go about the business of making fixes, especially when it comes to security and safety. That’s why the U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID law after the horrific 9/11 attacks in 2001. The REAL ID program requires people flying commercially to have a REAL ID, state drivers’ licenses with a star at the top of the license. The law allows for substitutions, including authorized passports. But, for most of us who fly, the REAL ID will be required once the program is fully implemented.
Unfortunately, before the novel coronavirus public health emergency, only about 35 percent of our nation’s drivers licenses were in compliance. That’s not good since the drop-dead deadline was scheduled for October of this year — until the health emergency caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.
Just a few days ago, President Donald Trump said the deadline would be extended, then the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delayed the deadline until October 2021. That allows Louisiana, other states and local authorities to focus on what’s most important right now. With many airports nearly closed because so few people are flying, departments and motor vehicle offices being closed for business temporarily it would be nearly impossible to meet a fall deadline.
Louisiana U.S. Senator John Kennedy was one of a number of elected officials and leaders asking Trump to delay the REAL ID requirement as the virus crisis became more important. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, was quick to praise Trump for taking that action in a March 23 tweet: “Thankful to @realDonaldTrump for moving the REAL ID deadline back. Now more than ever, this is an economic issue: Real America needed a REAL ID extension, and our president delivered.”
This wasn’t a difficult decision. It was something that had to be done. It was the right thing to do.
As our state OMV offices re-open and as it becomes easier to convert standard drivers licenses to REAL ID licenses, we encourage Louisianans to help our state significantly increase the number of state drivers with the type of license that will be required to fly come next year. It is a part of keeping air travel more secure and safer.
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