Minnesota House passes Real ID bill

Published 1:26 pm Saturday, February 25, 2017

ST. PAUL — After years of debate, Real ID legislation has taken a significant step toward being signed into law.

The Minnesota House voted 72-58 Thursday to pass a bill that would bring the state in line with federal guidelines that some say allows government overreach and violates data privacy. Lawmakers face a January 2018 deadline to distribute IDs before Minnesota residents will be barred from boarding domestic flights and visiting military bases.

Debate over privacy concerns of the ID program has stalled legislation since the federal government passed the law in 2005. The House bill seeks to avoid this conflict by letting Minnesota residents opt-in to the program.

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But tangled within the legislation was also a debate over immigration policy. Several Democratic lawmakers tried to strip a provision in the bill that they said would block undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses. After the amendment failed, many Democrats said they were originally in favor of the measure but would not vote for it in current form.

Democratic Rep. Carlos Mariani, who proposed the failed amendment, said the two issues should be dealt with through separate pieces of legislation.

“You don’t need this language in order to have a Real ID compliant piece of legislation,” Mariani said.

Several other Democrats criticized their Republican counterparts for their support of the provision and one GOP member, Mountain Lake Rep. Rod Hamilton, joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

But Republicans said they were the ones separating the immigration and ID issues.

The bill’s author, GOP Rep. Dennis Smith, said the bill maintains “status quo” because undocumented immigrants aren’t allowed to get licenses. He said no one will be barred from getting a license if they were already eligible.

The Senate will now take the lead on the measure, even though there are differences between the two chambers’ legislation.

“I think the Senate believes that their bill does what ours does,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt. “We don’t believe it does.”

Still, the Republican leader said he was confident the House and Senate could reconcile the differences.