Lawmakers look for middle ground to fix Real ID

Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton want to address Real ID issues in a special session
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP

Minnesota legislators remain torn between a push to bring the state in compliance with the Real ID federal identification law and a desire to protect privacy.

A large, bipartisan group of lawmakers met Thursday to discuss a potential Real ID fix, which is one of the issues that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton wants addressed in a special session. They looked at four proposed bills but didn't reach any decisions.

Minnesota remains out of step with the federal law that requires all states to have tougher security standards in place for driver's licenses. Those upgraded IDs will be needed sometime this year to board domestic flights. Passports and the enhanced driver's licenses already available will also work.

Travel convenience should not be the only motivation for moving forward, said state Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls.

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"I hope we just don't come down here and say let's allow you to travel to Arizona to see your grandkids," said Kresha, who wants to retain some state autonomy. "Let's allow you to have the rights and responsibilities and liberties that we fought for to get here. Let's not just sweep that under the rug because you're worried about getting on an airplane."

The constraints of current state law prevented public safety officials from attending the hearing or providing any information to lawmakers. That's why a repeal is needed soon so that the state can seek another compliance extension, said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, a co-chair of the legislative working group.

"Our hands are tied until we repeal the bill," she said.

Scott is proposing a bill that would repeal the current prohibition and direct the commissioner of public safety to present a report on Real ID implementation by the start of the regular session on March 8. Scott said she thinks the state will have sufficient time to make needed changes.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, worked to pass a state prohibition on implementing Real ID in 2009. He now believes the restraints should be loosened but said concerns remain strong about data privacy and whether the state would be handing over its driver's license authority to the federal government.

State Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, is proposing a bill that would repeal the prohibition and take other steps to bring the state toward compliance. Dibble said one provision would eliminate the non-expiring state IDs currently available to senior citizens. He said another would give the state some protection from a future expansion of Real ID.

"There's a policy concern about the fact that the secretary of Homeland Security can deem other purposes for Real ID, kind of at their whim," said Dibble, the working group's other chair. "This language in here triggers some sort of review on the part of the state of Minnesota, should that occur."

Dibble said he believes a Real ID fix is within reach and will recommend to legislative leaders that it be addressed in a special session. Scott said she would need to talk to her House colleagues before making any recommendations.

Dayton has set a Friday deadline for House and Senate leaders to agree on a special session agenda.