Real ID tops the agenda when Minnesota Legislature returns

Published 7:27 am Tuesday, April 11, 2017

By Tim Pugmire FM

ST. PAUL — Real ID is the first item on the Legislature’s to-do list when lawmakers come back from a break next week. At stake is whether Minnesotans will be able to board domestic flights next year using their driver’s licenses as ID.

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House and Senate negotiators are scheduled to start working out their differences between Real ID bills. Last year Minnesota lawmakers lifted a 2009 ban on Real ID planning, but they couldn’t agree on the implementation.

The Legislature needs to act soon, said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

“We have to pass a Real ID bill, or Minnesotans aren’t going to be able to get on commercial airplanes starting in January,” he said. “There’s just no other option. It’s not about satisfying ourselves. It’s first and foremost satisfying the federal government.”

State-issued driver’s licenses and other identification cards that do not meet the new federal security standards will no longer work at airports and other facilities next year. Travelers would have to have a passport or enhanced driver’s license.

Questions about driver’s licenses and unauthorized immigrants have gummed up a quick resolution to the issue.

Unauthorized immigrants are currently prohibited by administrative rules from obtaining Minnesota driver’s licenses. The House passed a Real ID bill that would make that prohibition a law rather than a rule.

DFL legislators who hope that unauthorized immigrants can one day get licenses object to the provision.

In the Senate, they combined with Republicans who oppose Real ID on data privacy grounds to defeat the bill. Senate Republican leaders eventually took out the rule-making section of the bill to get the DFL votes needed to pass it on their second try.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he’s optimistic about finding a compromise.

“That’s the part where the rub is right now between the House and Senate,” Gazelka said. “But in the end, I do believe we will get a bill that comes out of conference that people on both sides, House and Senate, sign and the governor signs.”

Dayton is among those who supports licenses for unauthorized immigrants, but he stressed last week that he has no authority to make such a change without legislative approval. Dayton blamed House Republicans for bringing the immigrant issue into the Real ID debate.

“I didn’t bring it up,” Dayton said. “They’re the ones who got it started, then the Senate responded accordingly. That’s where it stands.”

The House and Senate bills direct the state Department of Public Safety to begin issuing Real ID-compliant licenses and identification cards by October 2018. Minnesotans will also have the option of getting a license or card that does not comply with Real ID.

Minnesota will also need to get a federal waiver on enforcement to allow enough time to put all the changes in place.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said he thinks Real ID and unauthorized immigrant licenses are separate issues that should not be tied together. Daudt said it was good to hear Dayton’s comments about his limited authority.

“That should wrap this issue completely up,” Daudt said. There should be no further disagreement. It doesn’t have to be a prohibitive thing, but just say he can’t change this through rule making. That’s fine with us.”