Minnesota is closer to joining most states in issuing federally required Real ID driver's licenses, following state Senate passage Thursday of a bill ushering in the security-enhanced identification cards.
The Senate voted 48-16 to make the cards standard beginning in 2018. People who don't want to supply additional information could still get a regular license, but that wouldn't be enough to meet federal requirements for commercial air travel.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said bringing the state into compliance with federal regulations would save Minnesotans plenty of hassle during travel or when visiting military bases.
"It's entirely up to us whether or not we're going to allow our citizens to access the Minnesota issued driver's license or identification card to be issued for that purpose or we're going to tell them they have to find some other form of identification," he said.
The issue isn't completely settled. A competing House bill would start the conversion this fall, a turnaround that some say is too fast. Waiting until 2018, however, could mean that some people have to pay to renew a license sooner than expected.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it could begin enforcing the Real ID requirement at airport checkpoints in 2018, but many states have gotten waivers providing them until 2020 to comply.
For several years, Minnesota had a law on the books prohibiting even planning for the conversion, which some regarded as federal overreach.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said Minnesota and the other states that held out shouldn't have given in to federal pressure.
"Since 2009, those 32 states that said 'no' to the federal government have been quietly pushed back into compliance and submission to the federal government by the federal government taking its club out and clubbing states into submission," he said in the floor debate.
Limmer argued Real ID is nothing more than a national ID card. He successfully added an amendment that limits state licensing officials from embracing any future changes to the program without first coming to the Legislature for consent.
The House bill hasn't been scheduled for a vote, but one is expected during the Legislature's final full week prior to the May 23 adjournment. Negotiators would have to work out a common bill before Gov. Mark Dayton can sign off.
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