In 2005 the United States Congress passed the REAL ID act that set uniform federal standards for driver’s licenses issued in each of the 50 states. After 16 years, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is enacting the requirements of this legislation, and creating regional driver’s license offices.
“June 28 will be the last day I will be able to issue a license here in Hancock County,” Hancock County Circuit Court Clerk Mike Boling said. “Starting the next day (June 29) anyone in Hancock County that is going to get a license, renew their license or take a permit test will now have to go to the new regional office in Owensboro, which is located out on Highway 81.”
When Kentucky first started to implement REAL ID requirements the original plan was for the local offices to issue the licenses, but the plan quickly ran into a major snag. When the state tried to integrate the REAL ID program into the existing program to issue licenses, the programs did not mesh.
“It had a lot of glitches in it,” Boling said. “At that point they knew they were going to have to redo the whole program.”
The state legislature approved a law that transfers the licenses to the state department of transportation. The transfer does not take place all at once.
“The change will be phased in over time,” Boling said. “They are bringing in seven or eight counties at a time until all 120 counties are covered.”
As part of the transition process the state plans to remove the driver’s license equipment from each county and moved. Boling said he thinks the state plans to move the equipment to the Owensboro regional office, but he does not know for sure what the state plans to do with the equipment.
“I will not have the capacity to issue a license even if I wanted to ,” Boling said.
Hancock County residents that want to schedule an appointment for their license need to go online to drive.ky.gov and pick a time slot, Boling said. He said it does not take much time. One of his staff recently went to Owensboro to receive her REAL ID compliant license.
“She was in and out in 10 minutes,” Boling said.
Since Hancock County is a small county, the Circuit Court Clerk’s office does not contain employees whose sole duties pertain to operating the driver’s licensing system. As such, Boling said he does not expect to lose employees when the office loses the ability to issue licenses. Boling said the bulk of the clerks’ duties pertain to keeping proper documentation for the court system. He said clerks must enter vital information into the computer system from motion day proceedings, district court proceedings, family court, civil court, jury trials, motions from lawyers and sending out court notices to the parties involved in court actions.
Boling said the Circuit Court docket contains approximately 100 cases each month. With the COVID-19 pandemic starting to wind down, Boling said he expects activity to dramatically increase in the office over the next few months.
“We have 15-months worth of trials that have been pushed back because of COVID,” Boling said.
With trials scheduled to start beginning next week, new jury orientation takes place Wednesday, May 26.
Due to COVID, Circuit court Judge Tim Coleman decided to divide the pool of potential jurors into two groups, with one group undergoing orientation in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. Boling said jurors with last names starting with A to K are scheduled to attend training starting at 9 a.m. Jurors with a last name starting with L through Z are to arrive for training at 1 p.m.
By Ralph Dickerson