It will cost up to $5 million to implement the Real ID if lawmakers choose to switch to the security-enhanced driver's licenses starting this fall, according to an estimate the state Department of Public Safety gave in a report released Thursday.
The Minnesota Legislature ordered the study as it tries to respond to a deadline imposed by the federal government aimed at making identification cards harder to counterfeit. Unless Minnesota makes the change in the next couple of years, Minnesota travelers would have a tougher time boarding domestic aircraft or getting on military bases.
Concerned over potential backlash, lawmakers are considering bills to usher in Real ID in October, so the cards that require more proof of identity and take more time to process can become uniform in time to beat federal enforcement timelines.
The report provides varying cost estimates _ ranging from $30,000 to $5 million _ depending on when the conversion occurs. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman said the agency wanted to provide options for lawmakers to consider. The report points out that a planned switch in computer systems should be considered because programming changes can be built in on the front end rather than added to the existing system.
"The lift will depend on when the Legislature asks us to implement," she said. "Whatever date they decide on, we will do our best to implement on that date. ... Certainly when negotiating with vendors and such, the more time we have to do it, the better _ to do it right and to do it well."
Minnesota faces a 2018 deadline to comply, but the state has applied for a waiver that could extend the deadline until 2020.
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Gov. Mark Dayton said he is hopeful that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will give the state breathing room. He said he's unsure whether he and lawmakers can get it resolved this year.
"Whether we can get it done this session, I don't know. The pressures of time, some of the more controversial features. Is that the price tag? I don't know," Dayton told reporters. "It doesn't have to be done this session is the opinion I received. It would be good for Minnesotans to have the clarity."
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said the Legislature still has time to tackle the topic during this legislative session and bring certainty to the traveling public.
"It is a priority for us to make sure that we're issuing these driver's licenses that will ensure that Minnesotans can get on an airplane with their Minnesota driver's license so that is a big priority," he said. "We can meet this deadline and be issuing licenses by October of this year."
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, has been leery of the Real ID over worries that sensitive data needed to get one will be too easily warehoused and shared. After the report's release, he said there is ample time to think it through.
"We do not need to rush it this year," Limmer said. "The stats I have begun to realize is that it costs us more money to do it quickly than to do it methodically and if the privacy of citizens are at risk I think we should take time to pause and do it correctly."
First-time applicants for a Real ID must present a valid passport, a certified birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or another recognized primary document. They also must attest under penalty of perjury that the information they submitted is correct. The corresponding documents or digital images are kept on file for seven to 10 years.
Lawmakers said they will consider rules for data handling to safeguard applicant information.