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Real ID advances in Minnesota Senate

Minnesota would begin issuing Real ID compliant driver's licenses in 2018, under a bill that won Senate approval on Thursday.

Schmit Matt MN Senator.jpg
Sen. Matt Schmit

Minnesota would begin issuing Real ID compliant driver's licenses in 2018, under a bill that won Senate approval on Thursday.

Backers of the bill said it's critical to bring the state into compliance to make sure that Minnesotans will be able to use their driver's licenses in the future to board commercial aircrafts.

"It's a long overdue vote. Minnesotans have been needlessly confused and perplexed about Minnesota's noncompliance with Real ID for far too long," said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester.

But critics accused fellow lawmakers of bowing to federal pressure despite serious data privacy concerns that come with the heightened identification requirements. Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, noted that Minnesota was one of 32 states in 2009 that pushed back against the federal government's Real ID.

"Those 32 states that said no to the federal government have been pushed back into compliance and submission by the federal government, by the federal government taking its club and clubbing states into submission by threatening us," Limmer said.


The Senate's Real ID passed 48 to 16 with all southeast Minnesota senators voting in favor of the measure.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said that as early as 2018, Minnesotans would need Real ID-compliant licenses to board commercial air crafts. That deadline could be extended to 2020. Minnesotans must already present a Real ID compliant form of identification, such as a passport or enhanced driver's license, to access federal facilities, including military bases and nuclear plants.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. This heightened ID requires verification of an individual's identity, residency and lawful status in the country. Minnesota is one of a handful of states not in compliance with the law. The decision to move ahead with Real ID implementation is a major about-face for the Minnesota Legislature, which in 2009 passed a bill prohibiting any planning be done for Real ID. A bill passed earlier this session repealed the planning provision.

Mayo Clinic is among the businesses pushing for a fix to the Real ID situation.

"Because Mayo Clinic has employees who are traveling or need to access federal buildings as part of their job functions, we support Minnesota becoming Real ID compliant," said Mayo Clinic spokesman Karl Oestreich.

The Republican-led House is moving ahead with its own Real ID proposal that would require the state to start issuing the licenses in October. That way, Minnesotans could update their licenses as part of the regular four-year renewal schedule. But the author of the Senate bill, Minneapolis DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, said he delayed the start by two years because the Minnesota Department of Public Safety warned it would be difficult to get it done as it prepares to launch a new computer software system. Issuing licenses before 2018 would cost the state an additional $5 million to $6 million.

That two-year delay in issuing Real-ID compliance licenses means that under the Senate bill, drivers licenses issued before Jan. 1, 2018 would only be valid for two years as opposed to the standard four years. Nelson said she would like to see steps taken to make sure Minnesota drivers aren't having to pay the full amount for a driver's license when it is only valid for two years.

Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, said it's important lawmakers act now to avoid what happened last fall when the federal government was threatening to prevent Minnesotans from boarding a flight with Real ID compliant identification this year.


Schmit added, "There's no value in us putting off this discussing and running out the clock. I think it's important to get ahead of it and provide certainty for travelers."

Related Topics: CARLA NELSON
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