Editorial: Real ID law still sits at the Legislature

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, May 4, 2017

It has been more than a month since the state Senate passed its Real ID bill and established the doable: The GOP can pass a bill in the House that includes language prohibiting undocumented residents from getting a license but not in the Senate. And since Gov. Mark Dayton opposes that provision anyway (although he has said he will sign whatever Real ID law passes), the obvious resolution is the Senate bill.

That’s where things stood at the end of March, and that’s where things stand in early May. There is no good reason for this dawdle.

To recap the necessity for the bill: In 2005, Congress passed a law setting standards for state-issued identification cards. Cards that don’t meet those standards — and Minnesota’s driver’s licenses and ID cards do not — are to be declined at military bases, federal buildings and, crucially, airport security checks.

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The George W. Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly set back the implementation of this law, but Congress has not seriously reconsidered it. As matters stand, the law is to go into effect at airport checkpoints next January.

Minnesota, citing privacy concerns and the wide discretion the federal law gives the Department of Homeland Security in how to use the information gathered by the states for the IDs, has actively resisted the Real ID law from the beginning. For years the Legislature even forbid the state from planning how to comply with the federal requirements. But as it has become obvious Congress isn’t about to overturn its requirements, Minnesota and other states have begun to fall in line; Minnesota’s gag order was lifted last year.

It may be that the Legislature’s leaders are hoping the Trump administration will again push back full implementation (doubtful). It may be that the Legislature’s leaders figure they can hang onto the bill as some sort of bargaining chip for the usual end-of-the-session chaos.

Don’t. Just don’t. One of the themes of this year’s session was supposed to be avoiding the chaos, or at least limiting it. Our state’s lawmakers may not be enthused about bowing to Washington’s dictates, but it has to be done. Pass the bill and get it over with.

— Mankato Free Press, May 3

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