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Pa. license deadline extended again

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With Pennsylvania gearing up to bring its photo IDs into compliance with federal regulations, Homeland Security officials have given the state another extension.

That means drivers licenses and other PennDOT-issued photo IDs will still be valid for access to federal facilities until Oct. 10.

The previous deadline expired earlier this month. A temporary grace period was granted until the extension received Homeland Security's OK.

The deadline to use Pennsylvania IDs for air travel, meanwhile, remains Jan. 22, 2018.

PennDOT estimates upgraded IDs will be available in 2019, which is after the facility-access and air-travel deadlines expire.

There's no word yet on what will happen if the new IDs aren't ready when those deadlines pass, but so far Homeland Security officials seem to have been cooperative with extensions for Pennsylvania so long as they see the state working to get in compliance.

Preliminary work on launching the program has gotten underway, PennDOT officials said. No estimates have been released yet on what the upgraded IDs will cost.

"I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security has recognized the proactive steps that Pennsylvania has taken in terms of developing a plan for REAL ID compliance," state Secretary of Transportation Leslie S. Richards said. "We look forward to continued conversations with DHS over the coming months."

The battle centers on the 12-year-old federal REAL ID law. The law arose from recommendations by the 9/11 Commission designed to strengthen national security. In order to protect air travelers and sensitive federal sites, the law requires states to meet minimum standards for vetting the identities of people who apply for licenses and state-issued IDs.

While participation by states is voluntary, state licenses that don't meet the standards would not be considered valid for air travel or federal site access.

Pennsylvania was not just out of compliance, but had passed a law in 2012 barring participation in the REAL ID program. State lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf last month approved new legislation paving the way for PennDOT to participate.

The law's success seems to have come in brokering a compromise: residents won't be forced to purchase the upgraded IDs, but will have the option of doing so.

Those who don't opt for the upgraded IDs would have the option of using passports for IDs when traveling or entering federal facilities.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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