COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolinians will be able to use their driver’s licenses to enter military bases and federal buildings.
State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Grooms said Thursday night South Carolina has been given an extension until June 6 to meet the federal identification requirements.
Grooms says the agreement was reached with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in reaction to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Those who carried out the attacks had driver’s licenses from Florida and Virginia. The idea was to make secure, modern identification consistent across the country, and that it should be linked to the information the person used to get a driver’s license.
South Carolina officials have resisted the change, calling it an overreach of federal power. Legislators passed a law in 2007 that forbids the Department of Motor Vehicles from complying with the federal requirements. Some people feared it would lead to a national identification card.
Grooms still doesn’t like the federal requirements, calling them “Washington’s bureaucratic baloney.”
Grooms says the extension gives the state more time to work with federal officials. He suggested that it might be easier to work with the new Trump administration.
At military bases in South Carolina, the requirements were expected to cause headaches for families trying to attend graduation ceremonies, as a driver’s license from South Carolina or five other states were set to no longer be sufficient identification at month’s end.
The list of other acceptable IDs included a passport, veterans health card, refugee form or “trusted traveler” card from Homeland Security — documents many people don’t hold.
But without one of those, “they’re out of luck” for getting onto Joint Base Charleston, whether that’s a FedEx driver or family member, spokesman Marvin Krause said earlier this week.
The extension announcement comes just three weeks before the base’s next big graduation from nuclear power school.
Fort Jackson, where more than half of soldiers get their basic training, gets roughly 200,000 friends and family members yearly for graduation ceremonies.
Lt. Col. Johnny Sellers, Fort Jackson’s director of emergency services, called the inability to accept drivers’ licenses a manageable inconvenience.
“There will probably be some delays” at the gate, he said last week. “I can’t say exactly how much or how bad it will be.”
Only half of states are compliant with Real ID requirements, but 17 states already had extensions through June or October.
Oklahoma is another state whose waiver was set to expire that was recently given a temporary reprieve. As of Friday, licenses from Kentucky, Maine, Pennsylvania and Montana will still become insufficient Jan. 30 to get on a base. Licenses from three states haven’t been accepted since September.
The commander of each military installation has some leeway into what’s acceptable, and officers at Fort Jackson are prepared to allow a compilation of additional IDs, including a university photo ID and birth certificate. They were alerting families through social media, as well as individually notifying those being invited by graduating soldiers of what forms of ID would be accepted. Getting on base could also require standing in line to go through a background check through the FBI’s computerized crime data system.
DMV director Kevin Shwedo is expected to brief lawmakers on the extension during a meeting next week.
Starting in January 2018, people with drivers’ licenses from states that still have not made the required changes will need additional forms of ID to travel by plane.
Seanna Adcox contributed to this report.