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Lawmakers signal a possible deal on Real ID bill

Enhanced Drivers License.jpg
Minnesota offers an enhanced driver's license that meets the Real ID Act requirement for an additional $15.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers signaled Tuesday that compromise is underway to comply with federal ID standards, signaling a shift away from a provision that would ban immigrants living illegally in the state from getting drivers' licenses.

A joint legislative committee met for the first time to reconcile differences between House and Senate Real ID bills, which attempt to bring the state in line with federal security standards for licenses at airports and military bases.

A provision in the Republican House bill — which was stripped from the Senate version earlier in the session — would ban immigrants living illegally in Minnesota from obtaining licenses. The issue has been a non-starter for Democrats and looked like it might derail the bill. But softening language from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP Speaker Kurt Daudt has lawmakers changing their tone on the issue and compromise seems likely.

Republican Rep. Dennis Smith of Maple Grove said he is confident that the two sides will find middle ground on the bill.

"Real ID is all about Minnesotans flying on airplanes," he said.


Smith said the House wants to make sure that Minnesota passes a law as soon as possible, so the state's Department Public Safety can work on getting IDs to residents before the January 2018 deadline. After that date, the state's current IDs will no longer get residents access to domestic flights or military bases.

Minnesota is currently one of four states not in line with the federal laws and efforts to comply have failed repeatedly since Congress passed the federal standards in 2005.

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Eric Pratt of Prior Lake, said there are some pieces of the Senate version that would need to make it into the final bill, including an amendment that would trigger a repeal of the law if the federal government substantially changes their Real ID law.

Pratt was forced to change the Senate version of the bill, which originally included the immigrant drivers' license provision, after it failed to garner enough votes from the Republican's one-vote majority.

An influx of new lawmakers and some conciliatory policy changes in the bill have helped Real ID inch closer to passage after strong concerns in past years that compliance with the standards would result in vast federal overreach and serious privacy concerns.

Dayton said earlier this month that he was not able to unilaterally change the rules around drivers' licenses for immigrants living in the state illegally, a major concern for Republicans. Daudt said soon after Dayton's concession that the House would be willing to change language in its measure to guarantee legislative input on any license eligibility changes and remove the outright ban on licenses for immigrants living illegally in Minnesota.

Dayton said on WCCO-AM Tuesday he's ready to sign the bill that emerges from committee.

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