Editorial: Fliers should prepare for ID surprises

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Anyone having trouble boarding a plane in May shouldn’t be surprised. By then, Minnesota’s state-issued driver’s license could be worthless in airports.

At the same time, the federal government’s recent rejection of Gov. Mark Dayton’s request for an extension to comply with federal Real ID standards by January shouldn’t have been a surprise either. State officials knew the mandate was coming and did little more than talk about possibly discussing it during a special session, if one is held.

The deadline for Minnesota to meet the standards of the Real ID Act, a federal law adopted in 2005, comes at the end of the month. The law requires a federally compliant ID card for air travel “no later than 2016,” but Minnesota remains among a handful of states failing to comply.

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It doesn’t mean Minnesotans flying out of the state on Dec. 31 will be stranded, however. Federal officials have promised to provide a 120-day notice before requiring those without a Real ID-compliant license to produce a secondary form of identification, such as an enhanced driver’s license or a passport, to board flights.

That gives would-be fliers at least four months to upgrade their IDs.

It’s likely frequent airline passengers won’t be willing to test the limits as state lawmakers have done since 2009, when they effectively passed a ban on implementing the new federal standards, citing privacy concerns. We expect the state will see an increase in requests to enhanced IDs, which come at a minimum cost of $30.75 for those simply getting a duplicate of their driver’s license. For drivers renewing licenses at the same time, the cost is $15 above the standard fee.

Others may opt to obtain a passport, but either set of steps will require making sure needed paperwork is in hand well in advance of any summer trip.

At the same time, we hope lawmakers prepare to take action on repealing the 2009 ban on compliance so a change can be made soon after the 2016 legislative session starts in March.

House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee Chairman Tim Kelly said he believes the next steps could involve phasing in the use of the enhanced license as a standard driver’s license while seeking a federal waiver for the transition. Showing something is being done will be a good first step that has been delayed too long.

While we agree with the Red Wing Republican that a special session isn’t needed, we aren’t ready to sit back and wait.

The earliest the federal restriction is expected to take place early May, but it’s not too soon to start lining up options if for anyone hoping to take a domestic flight during the summer months. As we noted when Dayton and others were putting their hopes on a request for an extension, people should take matters into their own hands and obtain an enhanced driver’s license or secure valid passport. The process takes several weeks, so start now.

There’s no reason to wait for another surprise related to the issue.


— Rochester Post Bulletin, Dec. 28

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