On March 29, the Minnesota House of Representatives took the first step towards allowing REAL-ID-compliance, which would permit Minnesotans to legally board a commercial airplane beginning in 2018.
A law passed in 2008 prohibited Minnesota's Department of Public Safety from even discussing REAL ID compliance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The measure state lawmakers approved would eliminate that ban and allow the conversations to begin.
It's worth noting that the ban on implementing REAL ID in Minnesota remains in place pending further legislative action.
And that's where things get interesting.
There is strong bipartisan sentiment that a REAL ID agreement must be reached with the federal government so Minnesotans can utilize airline travel freely two years from now. But there is also significant bipartisan opinion, at least within the House, that your personal information should not be shared with the federal government. That is the reason Minnesota instituted a REAL ID ban in the first place.
To me, the answer lies within a program Minnesota already has in place: enhanced driver's licenses (EDL).
In addition to serving as a traditional driver's license, it can verify your identity and citizenship. It also allows you to travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean without a passport, as the enhanced driver's license is a federally approved border crossing document.
To apply for the EDL card, you would need to bring documents such as your Social Security card and your proof of residence, and the charge is $15 more than it costs to renew your current driver's license.
Rather than starting from scratch, I believe we should be using EDL cards as the starting point for REAL ID compliance. When there was talk late last year that Homeland Security might impose an earlier 2016 REAL ID deadline, it was made clear that the Minnesotans who already had an EDL card would be allowed to board an airplane. And for those folks who don't fly or are adamant about not sharing any information with any government entity, they could choose not to make the upgrade.
Protecting your personal information is a right all of us should take very seriously. In the next few weeks, we are likely to hear more about REAL ID implementation legislation. It's my hope that the enhanced driver's license program plays a significant role in that conversation.