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Minnesota's Real ID bill clears Senate, House to discuss it next week

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Major changes would be coming to the Minnesota Driver's License under a bill that was approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

Minnesota would begin issuing Real ID compliant licenses, which means that Minnesotans will be able to use their driver's licenses in the future to board commercial flights.

"It's a long overdue vote," said Sen. Carla Nelson to the Rochester Post Bulletin. "Minnesotans have been needlessly confused and perplexed about Minnesota's noncompliance with Real ID for far too long."

The Senate approved the legislation on a 48-16 vote. The bill would actually give Minnesotans a choice between Real ID-compliant licenses and the standard licenses starting in 2018, but the standard licenses could not be used for any federal purposes, including boarding commercial flights.

But not everyone was happy about it. Critics accuse lawmakers of bowing to federal pressure despite serious concerns about data privacy. Sen. Warren Limmer called Real ID nothing more than a national ID card and noted that in 2009 Minnesota was one of 32 states originally opposed to Real-ID.

"Those 32 states that said no to the federal government have been pushed back into compliance and submission by the federal government, by the federal government taking its club and clubbing states into submission by threatening us," said Limmer.

Still a big journey for approval

The bill still has a ways to go before it gets through the legislature, though. The Pioneer Press highlights several key differences between the Republican-controlled House version and the DFL-controlled Senate.

  • The Senate would have the state begin issuing the new licenses in 2018, which would require some Minnesotans to get a two-year driver's license in the interim. The House, at some additional expense, would have the state start producing the new ID later this year.
  • The House would specifically restrict Minnesota from issuing the licenses to undocumented immigrants. The Senate measure is silent on that issue.

The House is expected to approve its own version of the bill next week, lawmakers would then have to work out the differences between the two versions in a conference committee.

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