|Posted:||February 2, 2018 11:37 AM|
|From:||Representative John A. Lawrence|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||COSPONSOR MEMO – Addressing the Coming Wave of Birth Certificate Requests with the Implementation of REAL ID|
With an impending tsunami of birth certificate requests coming due to the implementation of REAL ID, we need to take an “all of the above” strategy to prevent the current system, plagued with delays, from collapsing. Years of poor planning and improper funding has left the Department of Vital Records underfunded and unprepared to handle this core government function, and legislative action needs to be taken to address the situation. This proposal aims to address the problem without raising the $20 birth certificate fee by taking the following steps:
Colleagues, as you are aware, the General Assembly passed SB 133 earlier this session to create a two-tier system for the issuance of Driver’s Licenses and ID cards. Going forward, residents will be able to choose either a standard or a REAL ID compliant credential. Other states that have taken this two-tier approach have seen a 20%-30% participation rate in REAL ID compliant cards. The Federal Government has issued very particular requirements for the issuance of a REAL ID, including the requirement that each individual must present a long-form birth certificate with a raised seal (similar to the requirement for issuance of a passport.) This long-form birth certificate was not issued as a standard practice until very recently, and most Pennsylvanians do not have a long-form birth certificate. If Pennsylvania sees a similar uptake in REAL ID participation as what other states have experienced, the Department of Vital Records, and our legislative offices, will be barraged with hundreds of thousands of requests for long-form birth certificates. We are not ready.
Unfortunately, the process for issuing birth certificates in Pennsylvania is badly broken. Obtaining a long-form birth certificate in Pennsylvania in a hurry is not easy. There are only THREE LOCATIONS statewide maintained by the Division of Vital Records where an individual can walk in, pay, and walk out with a birth certificate – Erie, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. Walk up counters in Philadelphia and Harrisburg have longer processing times. Requests for birth certificates received via mail currently face a FIVE MONTH processing time. Even the approved third-party online vendor, VitalChek, takes between 3-16 weeks to process a birth certificate. By comparison, an individual born in Maryland can obtain a birth certificate across the counter, same day, in any county across the state.
In researching the issue, I wanted to know why there are such delays, since citizens are paying $20 for a birth certificate. It was surprising to learn that none of the $20 goes to the Department of Health, or the Division of Vital Records, to help pay for this service. Of the $20 fee, $10 goes to the General Fund, $7.50 goes to the PCCD for child advocacy centers, and $2.50 goes to DHS (formerly DPW) for training of mandated reporters of child abuse. It seems to me that if we want to cut down on wait times, we need to direct some of the funding to the Department of Vital Records. It only makes sense that people requesting birth certificates help pay for the government they are using.
In my view, there are a great number of reasons as to why the state finds itself in this disastrous position, and there is culpability across several administrations. With that being said, I would like to get some reality-based solutions in place as soon as possible. We need to get more people issuing certificates, correct the funding issues, and make sure fix the system so we don’t end up in the same place a few years down the road.
With this in mind, this legislation will take a multi-pronged approach as follows:
Introduced as HB84