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Trying the REAL ID Act again

Published (5/16/2008)
By Mike Cook
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Legislators are stubborn in their opposition to the REAL ID Act.

Because of previous language regarding the proposed federal identification card, an omnibus transportation policy bill was vetoed April 25. Both bodies approved different anti-act wording May 13.

The one sentence bill states: “The commissioner of public safety is prohibited from taking any action to implement or to plan for the implementation by this state of those sections of Public Law 109-13 known as the Real ID Act.” Eighteen other states have passed similar legislation.

The sentence was amended onto HF3807*/SF3494, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul). When first passed by the House May 1, the bill provided additional whistleblower protection for state executive branch employees.

As amended, the bill was passed 50-16 by the Senate and 103-30 by the House. If the votes hold, this would be enough to potentially override a veto.

The act’s goal is to make documents such as driver’s licenses and state identification cards harder to forge, thereby reducing identity fraud and tightening immigration standards. States have called it an unfunded mandate, and others have questioned the security associated with the plan and have expressed concern about data privacy issues.

“The most conservative figure we’ve been given by our Department of Public Safety is that over the course of the next three years, REAL ID will cost us $31.4 million over and above what we’re currently spending on driver’s licenses and state identification production, verification and issuance,” Mariani said. Because the federal government has yet to pass funding for the plan, he said, “It’s going to come out of your constituent’s pockets sooner or later.”

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) said this approach isn’t smart given department hopes to implement a new computer system. It would make sense, she continued, for the state to prepare for this act while designing the system.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has warned that if state licenses are not in federal compliance by the end of 2009, Minnesotans would be unable to use their driver’s license or state identification card for air travel or to enter federal buildings. Eventually, all Americans would have a government-approved card to enter a federal facility or board a plane.

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