Federal officials came to Minnesota Tuesday to "get real" with lawmakers about Real ID, the enhanced security program it's rolling out for driver's licenses across the country.
Minnesota is one of only four states that hasn't complied yet with the law or asked for an extension, due to concerns by some lawmakers that the new, more secure identification cards could allow the government to track people's whereabouts or access their private information, KARE 11 reports.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security met with a group of Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday in an attempt to reassure them that those concerns are unwarranted – that the federal government is not collecting any data from the new IDs – and to encourage them to bring Minnesota in compliance with Real ID.
As of right now, a current Minnesota driver's license is not adequate ID to get you into certain federal facilities or nuclear power plants.
At some point in the future, that license will no longer be acceptable identification to get on a commercial airline flight. But the federal officials said Tuesday there is no hard and fast deadline yet for when that will happen.
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:
"These standards involve a number of aspects of the process used to issue identification documents, including: Information and security features that must be incorporated into each card; application information to establish the identity and immigration status of an applicant before a card can be issued; and physical security standards for facilities where driver's licenses and applicable identification cards are produced."
Some Minnesota lawmakers were so concerned about the privacy questions that they 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.
So if legislators decide to take up the issue when they meet again next spring, they first have to change that law.
After Tuesday's hearing, some of the Real ID skeptics had changed their minds, the Star Tribune reports. But others remained unconvinced, including state Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who said he doesn't trust the federal government to keep its word.
"The Homeland Security Director, any one of them in the future, can change the purpose of the Real ID card," Limmer said, according to KARE 11. "It's a wide open opportunity for anyone to demand other things from American citizens by the use of that card."
Wisconsin is one of several states that is already issuing Real ID-compliant licenses, according to the La Crosse Tribune. Here's a sample.
The gold star in the upper right corner indicates it is an acceptable federal ID.
It's not mandatory for Minnesota to upgrade driver's license security. But if it doesn't, 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, according to the Associated Press.