It’s only taken 13 years, but Pennsylvania is finally starting to pre-qualify people for a new enhanced identification card.
Congress adopted the Real ID Act in 2005, a post-9/11 measure meant to make the kind of work-arounds used by terrorist hijackers obsolete through increased precaution and security.
But in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg bristled and blustered. No, they wouldn’t do it. Nope, nope, nope. Seven years into the new law, the state Legislature responded with a document of its own, when the Real ID Nonparticipation Act gave the feds a resounding “nuh-uh.”
That came in 2012, a year after the 10th anniversary of the day seven crew members and 33 passengers, along with four hijackers, died in a Pennsylvania field.
Gov. Tom Wolf finally signed the law that allowed the state to participate in 2017.
As each deadline in the Real ID process has come up, Pennsylvania has lagged behind like a whiny kid who forgot his homework. There isn’t enough time, the state has cried.
That’s still the mantra now. While the standards are supposed to go into effect in the Keystone State in a month, once again, an extension has been requested. The $30 optional IDs won’t actually be available until March.
Without the IDs, Pennsylvanians will eventually not be able to access spaces under federal protection, like U.S. courthouses or airplanes.
Pennsylvania is not alone. While 33 states and areas are listed by the Department of Homeland Security as compliant, there are 18 states and five territories that aren’t. All are listed as having extensions. Many of those joined Pennsylvania in opposition.
But of those 55 states and places, Pennsylvania has the distinction of being the home to a graveyard-shrine that speaks to why the law exists. Only two other states can say that. New York is compliant. So is the District of Columbia.
New Jersey, where fateful Flight 93 took off on Sept. 11, 2001, is also still amid extensions following a restraining order and legal challenge from the ACLU. Massachusetts, too, has extensions. The planes that hit the World Trade Center took off from Boston’s Logan International Airport.
The Real ID Act has not been without controversy and criticism, which has come from Republicans, Democrats, liberals and libertarians alike, for a spectrum of reasons from privacy to constitutionality.
But Pennsylvania’s years of foot-dragging, at the same time it was legislating voter identification requirements, seems oddly discordant.
What seems fitting, however, is that the pre-qualifying process begins as the Tower of Voices is set to be dedicated at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Maybe some voices were finally heard.
—The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review