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Real ID gag rule nears an end at the state legislature

Minnesota is almost to the point where key state officials can begin talking about complying with federal identification card standards.

The state Senate voted 63-2 last week to lift a 2009 law that prevented Public Safety Department officials from even discussing upgrading Minnesota driver’s licenses and other ID cards to meet federal standards. The bill passed last Monday requires state officials to draw up a proposal by March 31 to guide the Legislature in crafting legislation to require that Minnesota driver’s licenses be upgraded.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said there is an urgency to pass the final driver’s license changes this year so Minnesotans will be able to get the upgraded licenses when they normally become due.

Without having a so-called Real ID compliant license, Minnesotans would need to use a passport or other type of federally accepted ID to board an airliner after Oct. 1, 2020. Current-style driver’s licenses could not be used, and already cannot be used to enter some federal facilities such as nuclear power plants and military bases.

Federal authorities said Real ID is more secure and be less likely to be forged, so airlines and others know the person holds an authentic ID.

The initial bill gives lawmakers the chance to “allow responsible planning to take place,” Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said.

The 2009 law, supported by all but one legislator, passed because of fears that federal authorities were overstepping their authority and demanding too much personal information from Minnesota license holders. Last Monday’s bill did not address issues like that, but the second bill this session will.

“What we are losing are another page or two of our privacy protection,” Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said.

While federal officials say they want extra personal information, in part, to fight terrorism, Limmer asked: “Is that little plastic card going to protect us from terrorism?”

Limmer, author of the 2009 bill, said he has not decided if he will vote to comply with federal requirements. Washington’s orders have a “chilling combination of personal data access and perhaps endless surveillance opportunities either by private corporations or government.”

The House is expected to soon pass its own Real ID bill.

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