New for 2017: No vehicle stickers, REAL ID issues

David Weissman
  • Vehicle registration stickers no longer required in Pa., but police support return to stickers.
  • Noncompliance with federal REAL ID requirements will limit effect of state-issued IDs.
  • On Jan. 30, Pa. licenses will no longer be accepted for entrance into federal buildings and nuclear plants.

Pennsylvania drivers no longer need to worry about registration stickers, but they will soon have to worry about having proper identification when entering federal buildings.

The state Department of Transportation is working to reallocate funds it would save from the elimination of registration stickers into a grant program for Automated License Plate Reader technology.

The state Department of Transportation stopped issuing vehicle registration stickers at the end of 2016 despite a late push in the General Assembly to repeal part of the Transportation Act, passed in 2013, that allowed for the elimination.

House Bill 1154, proposing the repeal, passed the House with bipartisan support and got through two Senate committees, but it was never brought up for a full vote on the Senate floor.

Every York County legislator except Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, voted in favor of the repeal.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said he would vote in favor of a repeal if it came up for vote again because the lack of registration stickers will make it more difficult for police to do their jobs.

Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean said he's found people can be negligent when it comes to updating their registrations, and the lack of stickers will exacerbate that issue.

It's still too early to determine what effect, if any, the change will have on enforcement of up-to-date registration, but Bean said the lack of stickers means there's no immediate way for officers to check.

Savings: Bean added that he understands PennDOT's thought process in trying to cut costs, but he said timely registrations might see a hit, resulting in a subsequent lack of funding for the transportation department.

PennDOT has estimated it will save about $1 million per year by eliminating the stickers.

The department has suggested reallocating those funds into a grant program for automated license-plate reader technology.

PennDOT: license plate readers in, registration stickers out

The technology, which is already being used by about 60 police departments in the state, including York City, uses cameras mounted on vehicles to take pictures of licenses and automatically detect expired registrations and insurance.

The Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology was demostrated by PennDOT officials in Harrisburg on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said the grant program was just a suggestion that would need the General Assembly to pass legislation authorizing it.

The readers cost about $18,000 each, according to PennDOT.

Bean said his department would need state funding to consider purchasing the devices, and Saylor said he wouldn't pass any legislation unless he's sure the money is available.

REAL ID issues: Money not being available is at the forefront of another PennDOT issue, as federal requirements threaten to reduce the effectiveness of state-issued driver's licenses and IDs.

The state is not in compliance with federal REAL ID requirements, passed by Congress in 2005, and the federal Department of Homeland Security sent PennDOT a letter in October detailing restrictions that would result from a continued failure of compliance.

Unless requirements are met, state residents will need an alternative, secure form of identification — such as a passport — to gain admission to all federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants, effective Jan. 30, 2017.

Pa. residents could face federal flight restrictions

Campbell said DHS is advising people to reach out to the agency monitoring the facility they plan on entering ahead of time to see what alternative forms of ID are accepted.

Effective Jan. 22, 2018, residents also will need an alternative form of ID accepted by the Transportation Security Administration to board a commercial flight.

The REAL ID Act establishes minimum-security standards for state-issued licenses and IDs and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and IDs from states that don't meet these standards, according to the DHS website.

Standards include capturing an applicant's image at the beginning of a licensing process and requiring more in-person visits for license transactions.

Pennsylvania is one of eight noncompliant states in the country. The others are Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri and Washington, according to the DHS website.

Not allowed: PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick wrote in an email that his agency would need at least 18 to 24 months to make all of the required changes.

Beginning to implement the required changes would require a repeal of previous legislative action, however, because the state Legislature enacted Act 38 in 2012 to prohibit PennDOT or the governor from participating in the REAL ID Act.

Saylor said making the changes could cost Pennsylvania an estimated $150 million, and he argued the federal government needs to provide funding for its mandates.

The federal government has given Pennsylvania numerous extensions, but the DHS letter to PennDOT stated no more extensions would be given "unless there are new developments or information provided on why standards remain unmet and the reasons for continued noncompliance."

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he intends to press the DHS for another delay in implementing what amounts to an unfunded federal mandate.

"It’s been estimated to cost more than $10 billion, with the overwhelming majority of that cost falling on the states," he said in a statement. "Of course I’m concerned about the need for better ID security. But I’m concerned about civil liberties as well — and REAL ID strips the states of sovereignty and could create a national database that tracks information of private citizens. That sets a very dangerous precedent."

Perry said he's working with representatives from South Carolina, Maine, Kentucky and Oklahoma in asking for more time.

"All of our respective states have made significant strides toward improving ID security and are meeting the vast majority of REAL ID requirements," he said. "Seventeen other states have been granted such delays, and we’re requesting equal treatment. I’ve discussed this issue with my colleagues in the state Legislature and understand they’re examining possible solutions as well. I’ll continue to work toward that end — but citizens are justifiably upset about yet another costly federal mandate that puts unnecessary burdens on them and their families.”

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.