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Pennsylvania could have phone-based driver's licenses by 2024

Pennsylvania lawmaker wants option of digital driver's licenses
Pennsylvania lawmaker wants option of digital driver's licenses 01:47

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- Imagine reaching for your phone instead of your wallet next time someone – a liquor store salesperson, a police officer, an airport TSA agent – asks for your photo ID.

People in some states, from Delaware to Oklahoma, don't have to just imagine that, because they can already get mobile driver's licenses.

Not so yet in most states, including Pennsylvania.

Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) is trying again to change that. "Again," because he's hoping the third time will be the charm for an idea he has twice before introduced: a bill to make digital state identification a reality in Pennsylvania.

His legislation is based on Louisiana's mobile driver's license law, which passed back in 2016. PennDOT would be in charge of the details. The idea?

"If you're driving and have your approved digital license, your phone would be all you would need," Miller said.

As in other states with digital IDs, Pennsylvania's version would be optional. Anyone who doesn't want one wouldn't need to get one.

James Enck, leaving a driver's license bureau in Enola, near Harrisburg, with his wife Kylie Enck – after updating his address following a move – wouldn't stop carrying his physical license.

"I'm just so used to it after 35 years," he said.

But he would like the option to go digital.

"I think that could be convenient at times if you don't have your driver's license on you for some reason – forget your wallet or something," Enck said.

Miller said ancillary benefits of the plan include the ability for users to reveal only certain information on their licenses required for a particular need, rather than all the information on the front of a physical license; and flexibility to include additional information about a person on a digital license that has been prohibitively difficult or expensive to add to physical licenses, such as an indication that that person has special needs.

Although no legislation is currently progressing in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, Miller hopes his legislation can become law during the first half of this year and digital IDs become reality within 12 months after that.

"PennDOT has been working on developing a mobile driver license (mDL) that is universally acceptable and can be verified by a reading device that will ensure validity -  similar to how credit cards are accepted across the world today," a PennDOT spokesman told CBS News in a statement. "While some states have introduced mDL, this new service is still in its early stages. As we work toward offering an alternative that is both verifiable and secure, we will need enabling legislation to offer this as an optional product in addition to the physical product for our customers."

Miller's plan could serve as that enabling legislation.

The plan is separate from the "Real ID" program, which the commonwealth has been rolling out. "Real ID" will eventually be required to pass through TSA checkpoints and board airplanes, although the federal government has repeatedly delayed that requirement, most recently until May 7, 2025.

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