Deal on Real ID set for final votes

Minnesota’s status as a Real ID holdout could be coming to an end.

The House and Senate are due to act as soon as Wednesday on a final plan to bring Minnesota driver’s licenses and identification cards up to federal security standards. Those requirements were first put in place by Congress in 2005 as a terrorism response measure, but some states resisted what they saw as a heavy-handed rule that raised privacy concerns.

Minnesota is one of the last to make sure its state driver’s licenses adhere to the standards. Without the change, there was a chance come January that Minnesota travelers could be turned back at airport checkpoints unless they brought a passport or another acceptable form of identification.

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, said the deal heads off that scenario.

“Travel issues and admittance to federal buildings and military bases will be an issue no more,” he said Tuesday.

Smith was involved in crafting an agreement that had been hung up by a fight over driver’s licenses for immigrants without proper documentation. The compromise shifts that debate to a separate bill so Minnesota can finally move ahead with adoption of Real ID.

The January deadline is still in play. But Minnesota is likely to apply for a waiver to get more time to implement the law.

Sen. Eric Pratt, a Prior Lake Republican and the other lead negotiator, said that’s needed because the licenses won’t be available overnight.

“The next step now is to get the extension so that Minnesota can go past January of 2018 and we don’t have the long lines at the DVS,” Pratt said. “We’ll be good until October of 2020.”

Based on experiences in other longtime holdout states, there is a strong likelihood that waiver would be granted.

The bill gives the Department of Public Safety until October 2018 to add Real ID to its offerings, but the agency could start issuing them sooner if it can.

People who don’t want one won’t have to go through the more rigorous process to prove they are who they say they are. But it’s expected some people won’t want to wait until their normal four-year renewal is up to get a Real ID.

Say for instance you had a year left before your license expires. Here’s how Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, explains it:

“You would receive a five-year license in that case and you would pay a $2 fee. If you were two years early, you would get a six-year license and pay a $4 fee. If you were three-years early you would get a seven-year license and pay a $6 fee.”

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has not formally announced his intention on the bill, but he made clear a bill must become law this year to head off complications.

“I’d have to see the Real ID bill, but if it has broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate — we have to have a Real ID bill pass this session or Minnesotans aren’t going to be able to get on commercial airplanes next January. I don’t think any of us want to be responsible for that.”