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Feds: Minnesotans don't need new ID for a year

June 2016 mock-up of what a Real ID Minnesota driver's license could look like. The actual Real ID license would be developed once the state approves a plan. The 2016 Legislature did not agree on a plan. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

ST. PAUL — Minnesotans have another year before they must get a new federally approved driver's license in order to board an airliner.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced Wednesday, Oct. 18, that the U.S. Homeland Security Department had granted the extension for Minnesota to comply with federal Real ID rules for driver's licenses and other state-issued identification cards.

"All Minnesotans should be assured that they can continue to board commercial airplanes and access federal facilities with their existing driver's licenses or birth certificates as we work to fully implement Real ID and comply with federal requirements," Dayton said.

The new deadline is Oct. 10, 2018. Just last week, federal officials announced Minnesotans had until Jan. 22 to obtain the more advanced identification cards.

Minnesota officials hope to begin issuing the new licenses a year from now, which would require another federal extension since not all Minnesotans would get them at the same time.

Dayton said on Tuesday that in light of problems with a new Driver and Vehicle Services computer system known as MNLARS, the Real ID rollout probably should be phased in. The Public Safety Department put the computer system online across the state at the same time, which Dayton said would not happen in private business. The Minnesota Real ID bill's author said he is grateful for the extension, but echoed Dayton's technology concern. "Focus now shifts to the troubled MNLARS system to ensure the implementation of the Real ID law moves forward and a Real ID is in the hand of any Minnesotan who wants one," Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, said. Real ID is a 2005 federal law that set minimum security standards for identification cards. Minnesota and some other states' legislators felt the standards were too intrusive and feared the federal government would keep a national database of all license holders, so they refused to comply.

However, in recent years it became apparent that Washington was serious in not allowing an old driver's license to be used to board airliners. Also many federal facilities require the new ID for entry.

Other forms of identification, such as passports, may be used instead of Real ID. During legislative debate on the topic, some people said they would keep their current driver's licenses and use a passport to board airplanes and enter federal facilities.

Unless a state showed movement toward implementing Real ID, federal officials said existing licenses and other identification cards would not be accepted. Minnesota's passage of a law complying with the federal standards earlier this year allowed Homeland Security to issue the extension.

Next door in North Dakota, Department of Transportation officials say federal officials have told them that their state's current driver's licenses can be used until October of 2020 to board airliners and enter federal facilities. Most states around Minnesota already comply with Real ID, including Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota.

Federal officials continue to review whether to extend the deadline in several states, including Michigan and Illinois. On Wednesday, they granted extensions for many others, including states from North Dakota to the West Coast.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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