COLUMBIA — If current airport security measures don't take up enough of your time, how about adding an hour?
Local air travelers soon might face the additional time for screening because of an impasse between the federal government and the Palmetto State over REAL ID.
Gov. Mark Sanford has until Monday to act on an extension to the federal deadline, or residents trying to catch a flight will need a passport or be required to go through a secondary screening process.
Without the extension, current South Carolina driver's licenses would no longer be considered valid identification to fly or enter federal buildings, beginning May 11.
Congress mandated in 2005 that all states put new security measures in place for issuing new driver's licenses or identification cards, but South Carolina has refused to comply with the REAL ID requirements, among about 30 states that have opposed it.
But only South Carolina, Maine and New Hampshire have not been granted extensions to the deadline for issuing new cards.
Sanford is weighing his options as he studies the implications of asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the extension, which would allow the state to begin issuing new licenses Jan. 1, 2010. He said he is worried that the state would break its own laws.
"We still haven't made a decision on it," said Joel Sawyer, Sanford's press secretary. "There's a law in this state that says we will not comply with REAL ID. Homeland Security has said unequivocally that an extension is a form of compliance."
Legislative leaders, including state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, argue that asking for more time to fight the issue doesn't put the state on the hook for compliance. The House and Senate have passed resolutions calling for the governor to ask for the extension while maintaining the state's decision not to comply.
"The only thing the initial extension does is give us more time to continue to express our concerns to the federal government," said Harrell, R-Charleston. "It makes absolutely no sense to me not to ask for the initial extension."
Local residents are of many minds.
Aarin Vaughn of Charleston, who has a passport, said she does not like the idea of the new identification cards.
"I don't agree with it because I think it's too invasive," Vaughn said. The REAL ID requires more forms of original documents, such as birth certificates, and the documents must be verified before the cards are issued. The intent is have a more uniform way of checking for terrorists.
Meanwhile, Melissa Margolius of Charleston said she thinks everyone in the nation should follow consistent rules when it comes to having proper identification.
"You shouldn't have rules in one state and not another," said Margolius, who also has a passport.
Latasha Riley of North Charleston, who does not have a pass- port, said she thinks the state should comply with the REAL ID.
"A uniform ID is the best thing," she said. "If you have to go through secondary screening, it's going to slow you down and you could miss your flight."
Harrell said he's heard from airport officials who say that residents without passports should allow an extra hour — for a total of about two — to make it through secondary screening in time to catch their flights.
Laura Keehner, Homeland Security press secretary, said it was too early to give residents guidance on particulars on flight and airport procedures in the event South Carolina does not seek the extension, but it will mean the rules go into effect May 11.
"It will be as if they show up with no ID whatsoever," she said. "At a minimum, they can expect to wait in line and go through secondary screening."
Military identification and a few other less common forms of identification will be acceptable in place of a passport. The deadline also affects admission in federal buildings and nuclear power plants.
Compliance with REAL ID, though, will mean a big headache for residents down the road, Sawyer said. The state Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that the wait time to get a Real ID-compliant driver's license could jump up to two hours and increase costs from $25 to $60 every eight years instead of every 10.
The additional cost and increased wait time would be required to verify the documents.
REAL ID facts
What is REAL ID?
--State-issued driver's licenses and identification cards that comply with new security measures established by the federal government, as recommended by the commission that studied the 2001 terrorist attacks. The objective is to fight terrorism and reduce fraud.
When will I have to start taking my passport with me to fly?
--May 11 unless the state asks for an extension by Monday. If the state does not ask for the extension residents without a passport can still fly but will be subject to a secondary screening process.
How long does it take to get a passport?
--It takes four weeks to process an application, but requests can be expedited — especially for urgent travel needs. To learn more about how to obtain a passport, check out the U.S. Department of State's Web site. You can also call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.
What other documents do I need if I don't have a passport?
--Residents without passports would be subject to secondary screening, although military identification and a few less common documents would also be accepted in place of a passport.
For more information:
--Log on to www.dhs.gov and enter "REAL ID" in the search box on the homepage.