State lawmakers have precious little time to ensure Pennsylvanians will be able to board planes and enter federal buildings without trouble next year.
Legislators have rushed to pass a fix that would make the state compliant with the federal Real ID ACT, which required states to upgrade their ID cards so they’re harder to forge or duplicate. But they have only a few session days left until they hit a June 6 deadline that could impact millions.
A bill to put Pennsylvania in compliance with federal rules passed the House State Government Committee last week — a decision hailed by Rep. Tommy Sankey, R-Clearfield, one of the committee’s members. That put it on track for a full House vote soon.
If the bill isn’t signed by the federal deadline, Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and IDs will no longer be acceptable to board commercial flights or enter U.S. government buildings. If it passes, however, residents would have a choice when they obtain a new license or ID: Get one similar to the current version or get a Real ID-compliant one for a likely higher fee.
“We were offered two types of ID. There would be a regular ID, and then, if you think you’re going to travel or be on an airplane, you’re going to have to have a Real ID,” Rep. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, said.
While the bill’s original version easily passed the Senate with near-unanimous support, changes made since then could complicate the process. Ward and Rep. John D McGinnis, R-Altoona, both expressed confidence that the bill will pass — complete with Republican-backed rules that keep the state from mandating the more secure cards.
“It’s a constitutional issue, whether the federal government has the power to tell us how to establish our licenses,” McGinnis said. “The short-term fix for this is to give people that don’t like the idea of a national ID card the chance to stay out of it.”
Several other states have found themselves in a similar rush to upgrade their licenses as deadlines approach.
On Friday, McGinnis said he suspects the bill will pass before Pennsylvanians are affected.
“I would think it’s going to happen. I don’t know why it wouldn’t,” he said. “But you never know.”
Poll: Pa. voters want legal pot
For the first time, a majority of Pennsylvanians support legalizing marijuana outright, according to a newly released poll carried out by Franklin & Marshall College researchers.
Fifty-six percent of registered voters answered yes to the question: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” The question was one of several in a statewide poll performed May 1-7 by the university’s Floyd Institute for Public Policy.
The poll found clear majorities of registered Democrats and independents support legalizing the drug, while 44 percent of Republicans would back the change.
The rising support tracks with national polls that show broad approval for legalization, institute director G. Terry Madonna said. It also demonstrates the incredible speed at which national opinion has shifted: In 2006, just 22 percent of Pennsylvanians backed legalizing marijuana.
With Pennsylvania set to approve its first medical marijuana growers and dispensaries soon, the issue has remained in the news for months.
Once confined to a fringe minority, recreational legalization is now widely discussed among political leaders like state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Source: Altona Mirror