Minnesota gets to work on REAL ID fix, with little urgency

Minnesota lawmakers are stepping forward with plans to keep you from getting grounded at the airport over the federal REAL ID law. Minnesota currently does not comply with the federal law requiring enhanced security checks in order for you to get a driver’s license.

It’s important to note that all of us can still fly using our regular driver’s license, but at some point the Department of Homeland Security will give the state a notice of compliance, which will give Minnesota 120 days make changes. Republicans argue the 120-day notice will give the legislature plenty of time to solve this in the regular session, but many Democrats are calling for an immediate fix.

“I want to make sure the public understands that the top priority of the legislature is to make sure they are still able to board commercial airplanes,” said Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), chairwoman of the state’s REAL ID working group.

What’s the controversy?

At issue is how Minnesota driver’s licenses do not comply with the federal REAL ID law. It’s all about the verification the state must require to issue those licenses, including submitting a Social Security number, proof of legal residence and citizenship verification.

But opponents told lawmakers all of that information would be accessible and searchable by the government. Even some lawmakers believe the state walks a fine line on breaching privacy rights.

“I hope we just don’t come down here and say let’s allow your travel to Arizona to see your grandkids, because more importantly lets allow you to have the rights and responsibilities and liberties that we fought for to get here,” said Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls). “And let’s not just sweep that under the rug because we’re worried about getting on an airplane.”

Alternative ‘Liberty License’ proposed

One bill introduced by Rep. Rick Hanson (DFL-St. Paul) attempts to skirt the issue by giving people the option -- they could apply for a REAL ID license, or a “non-compliant” card.

“Maybe we call it a Liberty License,” Hanson said. “Let them opt out.” 

Lawmakers took no formal action Thursday, with the working group’s chair wanting more time.

“We don’t want to rush into something on this and put Minnesotans' personal information at risk in anyway,” Rep. Scott said.