- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Idaho an extension to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, state officials say.

The Idaho Transportation Department said Tuesday that the extension granted on Friday means Idaho residents can continue to use their Idaho driver’s licenses to prove their identity to federal officials.

“The approval allows for these cards to be accepted as proof of identity for entrance into locations such as nuclear facilities, military bases and federal buildings, and for boarding federally regulated air travel,” said state agency spokesman Steve Grant in a news release.

That ability was set to expire starting in 2016.

Federal officials say the REAL ID Act, enacted in 2005, is intended to make it harder for terrorists to avoid detection. Its creation followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Idaho Legislature in 2008 banned the state from complying with the REAL ID Act, which requires proof of lawful status in the U.S. in order for a driver’s license to be valid for federal use.

Idaho lawmakers argued that the federal law is an unfunded mandate. The estimated cost to comply was $20 million, plus $5 million per year in ongoing costs.

Instead of working toward complying, Idaho lawmakers this year approved a plan signed into law in March allowing the Idaho Transportation Department to file extension requests to the Department of Homeland Security along with status reports. The law also requires the state agency to give annual updates to the Idaho House and Senate Transportation committees.

The Department of Homeland Security recently removed limitations on extension requests. But each year states must submit new extension requests.

Grant, the Idaho Transportation Department spokesman, said Tuesday the letter from the Department of Homeland Security received Friday was signed by Alan D. Bersin, assistant secretary for policy, and Philip A. McNamara, assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Sy Lee declined to comment on why the agency granted Idaho the extension.

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