West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joe Miller had to go through another round of tough questioning from lawmakers Monday about the DMV’s recent adoption of the federal Real ID Act.
Just like they did last Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, state Department of Transportation officials had their annual budget hearing before the House Finance Committee Monday afternoon.
And also like Thursday, it didn’t take long before lawmakers started hitting on the DMV’s new policies for renewing driver’s licenses.
Delegate Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, started first in asking why the state now has a two-tiered system where people can request either a state ID or Real ID.
“The purpose of the whole Real ID project was to bring the security of all driver’s licenses up to a certain level,” Miller said.
The federal Real ID Act was passed in 2005 as post-9/11 security measure. It forces states to require residents to show specific documents to prove their identity and residency when they apply for a new form of identification.
Residents now have two options: they can either get a regular driver’s license, or get a Real ID card.
Miller said the application process is the same for both, but if people want the federally-recognized Real ID, the DMV can’t print it.
Instead, the DMV has to send the application to Fort Wayne, Ind., for printing.
Why, you may ask? The federal Real ID law says there are certain security measures that have to be implemented at a facility printing Real ID cards.
Miller said the DMV does not meet those requirements, but the Indiana facility – which he called a “kind of Fort Knox” – does. The process takes a few weeks, during which time the DMV issues a person a temporary driver’s license.
So far this year, the DMV has issued 36,000 new driver’s licenses. Of that 12,000 people opted for the Real ID.
That will become important in two years as anyone wanting to board a plane or go in and out of federal buildings will need a Real ID.
And also like last Thursday, Canturbury zeroed in on the Obama issue.
Miller has said the law requires applicants to bring a certified copy of their birth certificate – which he said is only valid if it is a “birth certificate” and doesn’t say something like “certificate of live birth” at the top – when they apply.
Of course, the copy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate on the White House webpage says “Certificate of Live Birth” on top.
“Based on documents he’s provided, can President Obama obtained a driver’s license in West Virginia under the Real ID act?” Canterbury asked.
“Based on the Real ID process, the answer is no,” Miller said.
However, DMV deputy commissioner Steve Dale pointed out that in addition to a birth certificate, the law also allows you to use a valid U.S. Passport to prove your identity. So the President could use that if he chose to get a West Virginia driver’s license.
Canterbury tried to pursue more questions regarding President Obama’s driver’s license status, but he was found to be out of order and his questioning was ended.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, then stepped up to bat to echo complaints from her constituents.
She wondered why people who’ve already been issued a driver’s license now have to come back with a birth certificate to prove they are who they say they are.
Again, Miller said it’s due to federal requirements.
“Before it wasn’t being scanned into computer,” Miller said. “Now we have to have it scanned in computer.”
“Now Joe, I’m going to repeat this because I know you sometimes have problems hearing things,” Guthrie said, as some finance committee members privately grumbled that the remark sounded disrespectful.
“I can’t tell you how many phone calls I’m getting about folks in their 50s and 60s who think that it is unjust to have to go through this process to go through and dig up this material,” she said.
“I didn’t have to show any of that material when I got my first driver’s license in Gilmer County,” Miller said. “So the state had nothing on file. That’s why the federal government has mandated this – I don’t have any choice in the matter.
“We have nothing on file now for those individuals except a driver’s license that was issued sometime in the past when the security for that card was very, very small,” he said.
The questioning diverted to other matters after that.
For those wondering more about what’s needed to get a driver’s license now, you can view the DMV’s brochure here.