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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tama Theis (R)

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Capitol Update from Rep. Tama Theis

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dear Neighbors,

I have been receiving a number of calls and emails from folks in our district concerned about REAL ID and what it means for travel in 2016.

I would first like to alleviate any fears for people with travel plans in the upcoming months: a Minnesota's driver's license is still a valid form of identification to board a domestic commercial flight. A working group of legislators met yesterday to discuss possible solutions to ensure Minnesota will receive an extension from the federal government, and I fully expect Minnesotans will be able to continue to travel without hindrance in 2016 and beyond.

First, for a little more background on REAL ID. REAL ID is a federal set of standards and procedures passed by Congress in 2005 intended to improve the security of drivers' licenses and personal identification cards. REAL ID requires that states verify an applicant's date of birth, Social Security number and principal place of residence, as well as verifying that they are lawfully living in the United States.

So why is this in issue now in Minnesota?

In 2009, the legislature overwhelmingly passed a law prohibiting the Department of Public Safety from taking any action to implement or plan for the implementation of REAL ID. Concerns were raised over privacy issues, civil liberties, data security and how our state would pay for this unfunded federal mandate.

Because of this law, Minnesota is currently the only state or territory not in compliance or on the path to compliance for REAL ID. A recent request from Governor Dayton and House Republicans to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for an extension was denied.

The last phase of REAL ID, which requires a driver's license meet federal REAL ID standards to board an airplane, is set to go into effect no sooner than January 1, 2016, and DHS has indicated that it will give our state 120 days' notice before enforcement. We have not yet received that notice from DHS, so if you have travel plans in the first half of the year, you will be able to use your Minnesota-issued ID to get on an airplane without issue. However, if you're trying to enter a federal building, your driver's license will not work as a form of approved identification.

There are currently two alternative forms of identification that do meet REAL ID standards. The Enhanced Driver's License, which costs an additional $15, is available to Minnesotans and also helps facilitate easier border crossings to Canada, Mexico and several Central American Countries. To apply for an Enhanced Driver's License, you must have a birth certificate (or State Department form verifying your legal status), a Social Security Card (or tax return), proof of photographic identity and two documents proving Minnesota residency. You can apply for one at 14 places across the state including in St. Cloud. If you're interested more information can be found here.

Additionally, a passport also serves as a compliant form of REAL ID to board an airplane or enter a federal building.

The legislature has formed a working group to come up with expedient recommendations including the repeal of the 2009 law barring Minnesota's compliance to REAL ID to ensure that our state will receive an extension from DHS. The House and Senate reconvene at the beginning of March, and this is expected to be one of the top priorities and first orders of business.

If you have any concerns about your upcoming travel plans or questions on REAL ID, please don't hesitate to contact my office. But for now, please know that your Minnesota driver's license will still allow you to board an airplane.

As always, I welcome your input on legislation and want to hear more about issues important to you. Please don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting, call my office or send me an email. I am here to serve you!

It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.