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House, Senate overwhelmingly repass Real ID bill

By Chris Steller
Rep. Dennis Smith is congratulated by Rep. Mary Franson after the conference committee report on Real ID was passed May 17 by the House. Photo by Paul Battaglia

(UPDATED at 6:39 p.m. with Senate action)

What a difference the better part of a decade makes when it comes to legislation that would make Minnesota comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005 to institute higher standards of security and data on state-issued ID cards.

On Wednesday, by a vote of 120-11, the House passed a conference committee report on HF3*/ SF166. Passed 57-8 by the Senate a couple hours later, the report now goes to the governor.

Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove) and Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) are the sponsors.

It was another story in 2009, when the House voted 133-0 to prohibit implementation of the federal Real ID law, or even study on how compliance might work, out of concern for data privacy and federal overreach. That ban was enacted and stayed in effect until last year, when a partial repeal allowed state agencies to plan for implementation.

A key difference in the bill compared to when the House first passed it 72-58 Feb. 23 is removal of a provision barring undocumented residents from obtaining state driver’s licenses. That prohibition currently exists in rule form but DFLers object to putting it into law.

Smith called the measure that emerged from the conference committee “a better bill than [when] it left.” He said if it’s signed into law, Minnesotans could continue to use a regular driver’s license to board domestic commercial aircraft until October 2020, past a January 2018 federal deadline.

The move would also ease admittance to military bases, nuclear power plants and other federal facilities, which has in some cases proved troublesome for those presenting Minnesota IDs.

“This bill’s been a long haul,” said Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul). “It’s going to be a much better day in Minnesota.”

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