A 180-degree reversal of course could be in the wings after Monday’s divided voice vote by the House Ways and Means Committee sent a bill to the House Floor that would bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.
HF3, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove), would direct the Department of Public Safety to let Minnesotans opt for driver’s licenses conforming to Real ID federal standards. That would end a state ban on implementing Real ID that passed the Legislature with only one no vote in 2009.
Legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton have said a looming January 2018 federal deadline would keep passengers off commercial flights in the United States if they lack Real ID-compliant licenses or other types of identification, such as passports.
Bipartisan sentiment on both sides of the issue continues.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) questioned the department’s use of federal Real ID grant funds after the 2009 ban went into effect.
Officials responded that the money was used for other things, including enhanced driver’s licenses.
Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) expressed support for implementing Real ID, but dismay that HF3 would put an existing regulation preventing undocumented workers from getting driver’s licenses into law.
Bentley Graves, director of health and transportation policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, testified in support of HF3, saying, in addition to air travel problems for businesses, the state’s noncompliance with Real ID is already causing difficulties with member companies’ access to military facilities. Graves said the chamber supports an option allowing undocumented workers to drive legally.
A revised fiscal note sets HF3’s cost to the state at $25.4 million over three years.
The committee approved an amendment to remove a $60,000 appropriation for implementation that Smith said Driver and Vehicle Services Division representatives say is no longer necessary.
The committee also approved, as amended, HF235, a bill sponsored by Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake), that would end the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program; and HF234, sponsored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), that would send appeals of electrical cooperative decisions to the co-ops’ boards rather than to the Public Utilities Commission. Both move to the House Floor.