Pa. residents could face federal flight restrictions

David Weissman
  • Federal restrictions could prevent Pa. residents from using state-issued IDs on commercial flights.
  • Pennsylvania one of 8 states noncompliant with federal REAL ID Act, passed in 2005.
  • PennDOT spokesman estimates it would take department 18-24 months to implement changes.

Pennsylvania driver's licenses and IDs might soon be denied for access to federal facilities or to board a commercial flight.

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The state is not in compliance with federal REAL ID requirements, passed by Congress in 2005, and the federal Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday saying that it would not be granting states any more extensions "unless there are new developments or information provided on why standards remain unmet and the reasons for continued noncompliance," according to PennDOT.

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.

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

REAL ID: 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.

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.

Act 38: But the department can't even begin implementing those changes thanks to Act 38, which the state Legislature enacted in 2012 to prohibit PennDOT or the governor from participating in the REAL ID Act.

Jeffrey Sheridan, a spokesman with Gov. Tom Wolf's office, wrote in an email that the administration hopes to work with the Legislature regarding this matter.

"REAL ID requirements amount to an unfunded and unnecessary federal mandate," Sheridan wrote, "but if we do not comply, and currently we are prohibited from doing so by act of the Legislature, the people of Pennsylvania will be unfairly burdened."

There is no known bill in the state House or Senate as of Monday proposing to repeal Act 38.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, but he said he hasn't had the chance to talk with anyone about the DHS letter.

State Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, who serves on congressional committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and another on Homeland Security, couldn't be reached for comment.

Kirkpatrick wrote that he does not yet have any cost estimates on what it would take to fully implement the federal guidelines, but PennDOT believes its current system is very secure.

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