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Dayton requests extension for driver's license security upgrades

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Gov. Mark Dayton has formally requested an extension from the federal government to give Minnesota officials more time to comply with Real ID, the enhanced security requirements being rolled out for driver’s licenses across the country, the Star Tribune reports.

The state is facing a deadline sometime next year when Minnesotans will no longer be able to use their current driver’s licenses as ID to board commercial airline flights.

Dayton sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Friday seeking an extension so the Legislature can take up the issue when it convenes in March.

"I remain committed to working to find a solution to allow Minnesotans to board aircraft in compliance with Real ID," Dayton said in the letter, which noted that Homeland Security recently granted extensions to other states including Louisiana, New York and New Hampshire.

Minnesota is the last state to act on the Real ID issue; all the others have either changed their driver's license requirements or already asked for an extension.

Homeland Security will review Dayton's request "in the coming days," a department sp0keswoman told the Star Tribune.

Why hasn’t Minnesota acted?

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and went into effect in 2008, as a way to increase security and deter identity fraud in a post-9/11 world. The law requires all state identification cards to have a minimum set of requirements.

But some Minnesota lawmakers were concerned those new requirements could allow the government to track people’s whereabouts or access their private information.

The Legislature passed a state law in 2009 that actually prohibits Minnesota from upgrading its driver’s licenses; prohibits the state from asking for an extension on compliance; and doesn’t even allow Minnesota’s public safety commissioner to discuss Real ID with federal officials, according to the Star Tribune.

Officials from Homeland Security met with a group of lawmakers in September in an attempt to reassure them that those concerns are unwarranted – that the federal government is not collecting any data from the new IDs.

One solution that might satisfy critics of Real ID is to allow two types of driver’s licenses – one that complies with the new requirements and one that doesn’t – and drivers could choose which type they want. The Pioneer Press notes that Wisconsin has a similar two-tiered system in place.

Do we have to adopt Real ID?

If Minnesota doesn’t upgrade its license security, residents will have to use another acceptable form of identification to board a plane, such as a passport or an enhanced state driver’s license.

An enhanced license doubles as a passport that can be used to travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean. They became available last year and cost an additional $15, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Here’s an FAQ about Real ID from MPR News.

Homeland Security officials said they would announce before the end of the year the cutoff date for using old IDs.

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