More secure drivers licenses and identification cards mandated by the federal Real ID Act will be available before the end of the year, Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Lawrence Olive told the Senate Committee on Government Services, Consumers and Veteran’s Affairs.
Olive said Thursday the BMV already issued a request for proposals and selected a vendor. "We are right now in the final stages of having a contract drafted and having the signatures on that contract so it can be sent back to Property and Procurement," Olive said.
"We are looking at in the next month or two to start issuing not only RealID (drivers licenses) but (also) Virgin Islands IDs and different IDs we will have in that whole operation within RealID," he said.
It will definitely be done by the end of the year, Olive said.
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005, the Real ID Act sets up standards for the issuance of drivers licenses and identification cards to safeguard against fraud and identity theft.
The final rules were put in place in 2008, with a 2009 initial deadline. The Virgin Islands and most states missed the deadline and there have been several extensions.
The territory has received $2.3 million in federal grants to implement the plan. (See Related Links below)
In 2011, the territory contracted BIZVI to set up RealID. BIZVI was a St. Thomas-based company that provides network programming, website design and custom programming, among other services to both government agencies and private businesses.
Two years ago, Jerris Browne, then the V.I. Bureau of Motor Vehicles director, projected compliance by February 2014. But in February 2015, the BMV’s new director, Olive, told the V.I. Legislature the system was not ready and there was a dispute with BIZVI over some of the final details.
Later in 2015, Olive told the Legislature that bringing the system into compliance with the Real ID Act was a major goal for 2016.
The government ended the contract with BIZVI and opened an investigation, which led to a defamation lawsuit against the BMV by BIZVI President and Chief Executive Officer Syed Gilani. Olive countersued.
Sen. Positive Nelson asked Olive where those lawsuits stood on Thursday, and Olive said both cases "have been dismissed."
At the end of 2015, 27 states had filed extensions to comply with the Real ID Act, and the USVI, Guam and the Northern Marianas had extensions under review and faced a Jan. 10, 2016, deadline. In January, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that all states and territories were getting a two-year extension.
Until Jan. 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued drivers license or identification card for domestic air travel, Johnson said in a statement in January. Passengers can also continue to use any of the various other forms of identification accepted by TSA, such as a passport or passport card, global entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, and federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.
"We’ve been dealing with this for a number of years and you are assuring me that, within the year, that will take place, and that is important," Sen. Sammuel Sanes said. He said that in the last few days, a person with a vision-related disability approached him and said the delays in the federally mandated system was creating a problem for them.
"This person doesn’t have a passport and when (agencies) request an ID from her, they won’t take her voter ID because it has no end date," Sanes said. "Sometimes when seeking benefits they are requesting her Social Security card. And I don’t think that’s right. There is a lot of damage that can be done with someone’s Social Security number," Sanes said.
No votes were taken during the information-gathering oversight hearing.