As the clock ticks on Harrisburg’s efforts to ensure that Pennsylvanians won’t need passports to board even domestic flights come Jan. 22, far more than vacationers’ convenience is at stake.
More than 60 percent of 27.7 million passengers passing through Pennsylvania airports in 2016 would have been denied boarding had the U.S. Department of Homeland Security not originally extended the state’s REAL ID compliance deadline through January 2017. Those figures come from a letter signed by executives of nine airlines, an airline trade group, FedEx and UPS. They point out that beating this clock matters for business travel, for air-cargo operations that often involve federal facilities that require REAL ID-compliant identification and for generating tax revenue.
With Pennsylvania’s current, additional DHS extension closer every day to expiring, Hempfield GOP Sen. Kim Ward’s bill to repeal the 2012 state law prohibiting REAL ID compliance has passed the state Senate. But PennDOT says the 2012 law prevents it from discussing compliance, including costs, with DHS, so the repeal bill must become law — pronto — for the overall effort to make real progress.
Indeed, myriad practical details of compliance — including its costs — await resolution. And if the stakes outlined above aren’t enough to motivate the necessary steps, the ballot box should be.
If Harrisburg fails to resolve the REAL ID issue before the Jan. 22 deadline, voters must hold its elected denizens — from Gov. Tom Wolf on down — accountable next year.
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