Dan Sparks: What you need to know about Real ID

Published 9:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2017

Senate Report by Dan Sparks

By now, most Minnesotans have heard something about REAL ID, or at least that there are issues with our current drivers licenses. But deciphering exactly what the issue is and how it affects the average Minnesotan is a little more complicated. REAL ID is a new type of identification card/driver’s license that includes additional security information.

In 2005, Congress approved the Real ID Act, which set out minimum security standards for federally accepted state-issued identification cards, including driver’s licenses. To meet Real ID requirements, the law requires states to accept only certain types of secondary identification to prove applicants identity, to issue the identification only to citizens or other legal residents and to keep digital and paper copies of underlying identification documents.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

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Before the federal law, states had their own, often differing standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards. The REAL ID Act sets minimum standards for what the federal government will accept. Although Real ID identification is required already for some federal purposes — particularly access to military bases and other federal facilities — it is not yet needed to get through federal security at airports. But that will change in less than a year. Starting on Jan. 22, 2018, TSA will require that everyone boarding a plane has a REAL ID.

For the last several years, the Minnesota legislature has held hearings and drafted bills to bring our state into compliance with the federal law. The Senate passed a bill last session, but the bill ultimately failed to become law. The main sticking point during conference committee, and the same one that continues to divide the House and Senate GOP caucuses, is the inclusion of proof of citizenship standard for the in-state driving-only license.

This session, both the House and Senate are again debating the specifics of a bill that will bring Minnesota into compliance. This bill allows the Department of Public Safety to take the necessary steps to implement REAL ID-compliant measures. The majority of the bill allows the Department to make technical changes to bring Minnesota’s statutes and licenses into compliance with federal REAL ID standards.

The bill currently being debated this session does make some changes for those who are concerned about data privacy. The bill’s main components include some of the following:

• The bill allows for a second tier noncompliant license. Therefore those who are concerned about the data collected with a REAL ID-compliant License/ID and those who have no plans for air travel can have a state issued ID and/or driver’s license that is the same as today’s.

  The Senate bill requires the Department to begin issuing REAL ID compliant driver’s license and IDs by Oct. 1, 2018.

• The Senate bill, as amended, does not contain language requiring verification of citizenship as part of the process for getting an in-state driving license. (The House version of this bill does currently contain language that requires verification of one’s citizenship)

So, what does this all mean for someone who just wants to make sure they can board a flight next year? If you have a passport, that is an acceptable form of identification to board commercial airlines. Minnesotans can also currently opt for an enhanced driver’s license, which is available at certain DMV locations throughout the state. In order to get an enhanced driver’s license someone must provide multiple forms of identification. You can find the documents that are accepted here: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/Documents/EDL-EID-Identification-Requirements.pdf

I am hopeful that the Senate and House can come to an agreement so Minnesota can finally become compliant with the REAL ID law. This also means we can erase any concerns about Minnesotans not being able to fly. While I recognize some of my colleagues concerns, I believe we have settled those issues and it’s now time to move forward.

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the District 27 senator.