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Quam seeks to guard against municipal ID misuse

Proposed legislation comes as Rochester City Council nears a vote on city-issued identification cards.

Northfield city ID sample.png
A sample of the Northfield municipal ID can be found on the city's website. The city is the first in Minnesoto to issue a municipal ID, and Rochester is considering the option.
City of Northfield
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ROCHESTER – A local lawmaker wants to make sure municipal IDs don’t open a door to misuse as the Rochester City Council nears a vote to become the next Minnesota city to create one.

“The intent is to prevent fraud,” Rep. Duane Quam said of the bill he co-wrote with Rep. Brian Daniels, R-Faribault. “That is the total and complete intent here.”

Duane Quam
Rep. Duane Quam

The Byron Republican, who represents a portion of northwest Rochester, submitted a bill Sunday to make sure photo ID cards issued by cities won’t be used to obtain access to state and federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

He said the bill, which could end up as an amendment on existing House or Senate legislation, is in response to the city’s discussion of implementing a municipal ID.

The Rochester City Council reviewed a proposal last week, which would have Rochester Public Library staff make the free identification cards as a way to address concerns of people who might not have state driver’s licenses or IDs, due to a lack of need or ability to afford one.

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The council is expected to vote on the proposal during its May 2 meeting.

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Andy Stehr, Rochester Public Library’s circulation services manager, said the cards would help address challenges faced by immigrants, especially those who were forced to leave their home countries without needed identification.

He also said they could be used to promote city pride, offer an identification option for low-income residents who cannot drive and provide other benefits for city residents.

Quam focused on one stated benefit in explaining why he wanted to ensure protection against misuse was in place.

In presenting the proposal to the City Council, Stehr pointed to two of his friends, Todd and Ronald, who are more commonly known as Theo and Vance.

“They would love to have an ID that they could hand people and say ‘Hey, this is who I really am,’” he said of the ability to use a nickname on the identification card.

Quam said he sees the flexibility as opening a door to fraud, if people are allowed to choose between using a state or municipal ID when applying for state or federal benefits.

“It could cause the possibility of you having IDs with several different names on it,” he said, adding his bill seeks to set limits.

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He said the goal is not to restrict access to benefits, but to secure them in an effort to make sure they remain in place for people who need them.

Quam said he wants to make sure Minnesota doesn’t face challenges seen in other states, citing a lack of clarity about when the cards can be used.

“I prefer to not have gray areas and be proactive in defining things,” he said.

Approximately 40 cities in the U.S. issue photo ID cards, with Northfield becoming the first Minnesota city to issue one last year.

In Rochester, Stehr said city staff is working with local banks, pharmacies and the school district to allow use of the potential city cards as official identification, but there are limits.

“The IDs aren’t going to be able to be used to buy cigarettes, firearms or alcohol,” he said.

Obtaining a municipal ID is expected to require two specific forms of identification.

One must be a primary ID document, such as a state driver’s license or ID card, a passport, a released offender ID card, Tribal ID card, permanent resident card, medical insurance card or W2.

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A second option from that list could be used, but a secondary source could also include a driver’s license or ID from another state, a Social Security card, a certified birth certificate or marriage certificate or a school transcript.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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