Minnesota Senate rejects REAL ID compliance bill

- With the clock ticking to enact Real ID in Minnesota, the debate in the legislature has turned from data privacy concerns into the prospects of allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.

Both those issues caused it to fail a Senate vote Monday afternoon by a vote of 38 to 29.

“I thought we were going to have plenty of votes but we did not,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said after the vote.

Gazelka implied he expected some Democrats to vote for the bill, although Minority Leader Tom Bakk said that was never the case.

“Senator Gazelka never came to me and asked if our caucus had any votes in support of the bill,” Senator Bakk told reporters afterwards. “I did tell him before we gaveled in today that there were no Democratic votes for the bill, but I was never asked to deliver any either.”

A Real ID bill passed by the House last week included language that would not allow illegal immigrants to get drivers license. They can’t currently, but that is only written as administrative rule, not in state statute. The House bill would change that.

Gov. Mark Dayton strongly criticized that move, believing allowing undocumented workers to get licenses and passing the drivers test to prove their knowledge would improve public safety.

Senate Republicans insisted their bill did not wade into that territory.

“You saw Senate Republicans focus on a bill that was clean,” said Senator Gazelka. “It was similar to the language last year, it did not deal with the undocumented citizens or illegal immigrants. we left that one totally off the table and said let’s just pass real ID.”

But, Democrats worried a few lines in the bill could be used in the future to prevent any move to allow those illegal immigrants to get licenses.

“Taking out these extra words, and it would have been a very very easy bill to proceed with to implement Real ID,” said Senator Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis. Dibble introduced several amendments to removed those lines, which failed.

Not one single Democrat voted for the bill. Five Republicans also voted against it, mainly due to their lingering concerns about data privacy which has bogged down Real ID in Minnesota for years.

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