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This Week At The Capitol: REAL ID Passes Finish Line, S&P Downgrades State Credit Rating

Mar 3, 2017

 

Oklahomans will have the option to get new identification cards in compliance with the federal government’s REAL ID Act. Also this week, a major rating agency decreased the state’s credit rate, which could make the capitol restoration more expensive.

Governor Mary Fallin signed the REAL ID Act into effect on Thursday to make Oklahoma state licenses comply with federal minimum safety standards of identification.

The Department of Public Safety must now find a provider to issue the IDs.

“Like we have to do when we get our first driver's license now when we’re 16 years old, you’re going to have prove all over again who you are,” eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU’s Dick Pryor.

The federal law has been debated in the Oklahoma legislature since the federal government passed it in 2005. Ashley says lawmakers initially opposed the measure over privacy concerns because information can be shared with other states, the federal government and potentially foreign countries when law enforcement requests it.

DPS will now mail licenses to residents. DPS will begin implementing the changes, which should take 24 to 30 months to be fully operational.

Credit rating downgrade

Following Oklahoma’s second consecutive revenue failure this year, Standard & Poor’s, one of the nation’s largest rating agencies, decreased Oklahoma’s credit rating on Wednesday. S&P lowered the state’s obligation bond debt rating from AA+ to AA and the appropriation debt rating from AA to AA-.

“Standard & Poor’s cited the instability of our revenue in downgrading the state’s credit rating and it also cited the unwillingness and unlikelihood of the state to increase revenue measures in the months to come,” Ashley said.

A decreased credit rating means it will cost more for the state to borrow money. Therefore, bond issues, like the ones being used to fund the Oklahoma Capitol Restoration Project, will be more expensive.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On what happens next in implementing the REAL ID Act:

Instead, what will happen is, sometime over the next several months, the Department of Public Safety will contract with a provider to do that work. What’s going to happen is our licenses are going to be centrally issued. Rather than getting them at your Department of Motor Vehicles, where you go to renew your tag and do things like that, it will be mailed to you from a central secure location.

On what a decreased credit rating means for Oklahoma:

What this means is borrowing money, the money necessary to finish the Capitol restoration project and any new bond issues will cost more, so that $10.5 million the governor recommended in her executive budget for a bond issue will buy a little less repairs.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Dick Pryor: Shawn, after years of delay, the Oklahoma REAL ID Act has been signed into law by the governor. What took so long and how is this going to be implemented?

 

Shawn Ashley: Well the federal REAL ID Act was passed back in 2005, but in 2007 the Oklahoma legislature decided that Oklahoma was not going to comply with it and passed a law prohibiting compliance. Much of the reasoning behind that law had to do with privacy concerns, that the information collected for our drivers licenses would be shared with other states, with the federal government and, ultimately, perhaps even foreign countries. Those concerns remained and even were a part of the discussions regarding House Bill 1845, which the governor did sign. Now that that bill has been signed, Oklahomans will not immediately get a REAL ID compliant license. Instead, what will happen is, sometime over the next several months, the Department of Public Safety will contract with a provider to do that work. What’s going to happen is our licenses are going to be centrally issued. Rather than getting them at your Department of Motor Vehicles, where you go to renew your tag and do things like that, it will be mailed to you from a central secure location. Additionally, as Senator Ralph Shortey, for one, warned on the Senate floor, for example, there will probably be some lines in that process. Like we have to do when we get our first driver's license now when we’re 16 years old, you’re going to have prove all over again who you are. So this process will take a little longer and then you will receive your license in the mail. Probably the process will begin in 2018.

 

Pryor: Standard & Poor’s has decreased the state’s credit rating. Why did S&P do that, and what does that mean to the state’s ability to borrow money?

 

Ashley: Well, S&P and the other rating agencies have been keeping a close eye on Oklahoma for a number of years. Just a few weeks ago, we announced our most recent revenue failure, and there have been concerns about the revenue collecting ability of the state of Oklahoma. Standard and Poor’s cited the instability of our revenue in downgrading the state’s credit rating and it also cited the unwillingness and unlikelihood of the state to increase revenue measures in the months to come. What this means is borrowing money, the money necessary to finish the Capitol restoration project and any new bond issues will cost more, so that $10.5 million the governor recommended in her executive budget for a bond issue will buy a little less repairs.

 

Pryor: Legislators have just moved beyond a major deadline.

 

Ashley: That’s right. March 2 was the deadline for bills to make it out of committee. This is a process. Bills have to move step by step, and it appears a significant amount of bills fell by the wayside. Others survived and now they face another deadline in March 23 to make it across the floor in their chamber of origin.

 

Pryor: And who would have predicted the latest Capitol controversy involves a private individual projecting an image of Woodie Guthrie onto a tarp that covers a scaffolding on one side of the Capitol building?

 

Ashley: That’s right. The north side of the Capitol is enclosed in tarps for the Capitol restoration project. Work is going on behind that tarp on the stone and on the windows. Artist Jack Fowler projected an image of Woodie Guthrie holding a guitar, which said, “How did it come to this?” asking what is going on within the state Capitol? Officials were concerned about that. They cited safety concerns for those workers, who do work at night and are behind that tarp. On a subsequent night, when the artist came to attempt to project that again, he was denied access to power. The power plugs in the north lawn had been turned off. When he came back on another night, perhaps with a generator to try to do it again, he was met by Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers Capitol patrol and told that he could be arrested if he attempted to project it, so we haven’t seen that since then. The artist has since indicated that he probably will not attempt to do it again because of the controversy that has surrounded it, but he did make his point asking, “How did it come to this?”

 

Pryor: So he probably won’t be trying that again, but what should we be looking for in the coming days?

 

Ashley: Over the next several weeks, lawmakers will be working on the chamber floors to hear those bills that survived the committee deadline. The major work will be discussion and debate on the House and Senate floor, leading up to the March 23 deadline for bills to be heard by then.

 

Pryor: eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, thank you.

 

Ashley: You’re very welcome.

 

 

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