I received an email this past week from a 73-year-old grandmother and constituent who was unable to get a driver license in Tulsa. She wrote she was going to travel to Muskogee and be there at 5:30 a.m. to stand in line so she could get through the door at 8:00 and hopefully get her license. I’d like to say that’s an isolated case, but it’s not. Right now, I’d say the number one issue people are asking me about is the problems they’ve experienced or have heard about related to getting a driver license.
This is a situation the legislative and executive branches have been working diligently to address, and I assure you, it’s a top priority for me personally.
Frankly, what we’ve been dealing with in the past several months has amounted to a perfect storm—between the lengthier process and software issues for getting REAL ID compliant driver licenses and identification cards coupled with the impact of COVID-19 on local tag agencies, including social distancing and other steps taken to keep the public safe, it’s resulted in backlogs and frustration. Again, REAL ID has been problematic, particularly because of software issues. I’ve met with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and just this past week, I’ve personally spoken to the software company to make sure these problems are being corrected.
Being able to get a REAL ID driver license or ID card is particularly important to Oklahomans who will be flying in the coming months or whose work or other activities require them to be on military bases or other federal facilities, such as federal court buildings. Unless another extension is granted, as of October 1 of this year, in order to fly or go to military bases or other federal facilities, you’ll need a REAL ID compliant license or ID card, or you can use a military ID, a passport or an ID card issued by a federally recognized tribal government. To learn more about REAL ID and what documents you’ll need to get one, go to www.realid.ok.gov.
We have made it possible to utilize technology to help alleviate some of the issues Oklahomans have been facing. If you need to renew or replace your driver license, you can actually do that online and print out a paper copy. Just go to https://oklahoma.gov/dps/services.html to renew your license online or to schedule an appointment to renew your driver license or to get a REAL ID.
In addition, written exams are being administered through CareerTechs for Class D driver licenses, which are the graduated driver licenses for new drivers and for motorcycles.
Another problem we’ve addressed is the issue Oklahomans had getting certain prescription medications that required a current driver license. We approved legislation this year out of the Senate by President Pro Tempore Greg Treat that’s already been signed into law by the governor that enables patients who have licenses that have been expired for up to a year to go ahead and receive their prescriptions using their social security number.
Despite the challenges, many of which are a direct result of the pandemic, we’ve had at least 426,000 renewals come in this year, and we’ve processed nearly 93,000 REAL IDs. Those are good numbers, but if you don’t have yours, then it is still very, very frustrating, especially when you find out it could be weeks, or even months, to get what you need.
Again, I want you to know, the Legislature is working to resolve these backlogs and delays. We want our tag agencies to offer fast, speedy, and friendly service, and we want DPS to make sure the software is up and running. Our point-man in the Senate, Appropriations Vice Chair Chuck Hall, is working with DPS, our tag agents and the Oklahoma Tax Commission to get things back to normal. My goal is to make sure that once again, if you need a driver license, you can simply walk into a tag agency, and they’ll get you taken care of in pretty short order. It’s what Oklahomans are used to and have come to expect. We’re focused on making that happen again.