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Real ID once again gets weighed down by political finger-pointing

Should language about undocumented immigrants and driver's license be included in a Real ID bill?

Minnesota politicians can not help but point fingers when it comes to the state's driver's licenses and Real ID.

Minnesota is one of the states that hasn't conformed with federal Real ID standards. The state has until Jan. 22, 2018, to get things straightened out – or Minnesotans won't be able to use a driver's license as an ID at the airport.

Republicans know this. Democrats know this. Gov. Mark Dayton knows this. And they've known it for more than a year, which is why they passed a bill in 2016 allowing the state to start planning for becoming compliant.

Things almost got hung up by political haggling – Dayton, a Democrat, kept accusing Republicans of dragging their feet; while Republican leaders accused the governor of not providing a real plan.

Now, months later and with the deadline closer than ever, things are again back to haggling.

What's the hold-up now

The governor said this week he wants undocumented immigrants in Minnesota to be able to get a driver's license, the Pioneer Press reported, And he wants it to be part of a bill that rolls out Real ID standards for Minnesotans.

Dayton told MPR News he did meet with DFL lawmakers about supporting language that lets undocumented immigrants get a license. But he didn't say whether he would sign or veto a bill based on whether that was included.

Republicans – who control both the Minnesota House and Senate – have pushed back.

GOP senators held a news conference Wednesday, with Paul Gazelka saying he's "extremely disappointed" the governor is trying to attach a political issue – driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants – to what should be a straightforward, standalone bill.

"There’s no reason to link these two issues; we need to get REAL ID done," he said.

But the current version of the bill that would give Minnesota a Real ID-compliant option (more on this below) is sponsored by Republicans, and includes language that critics say blocks undocumented immigrants from getting a driver's license.

As The Associated Press reported, Democratic House members tried to take that part out during a vote, but were overruled by Republicans.

Arguments for and against

As of 2015, 12 states and Washington, D.C. offered driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

Supporters of allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver's license say it's a way to improve safety, ProPublica wrote – they have to pass a test and prove they know what they're doing on the road. It could also prompt more of them to get car insurance. In Los Angeles, police said hit-and-run incidents tend to be more likely if someone doesn't have insurance.

But on the other side, as reported by WHEC, there's this argument: Why should someone who is technically breaking the law by being in the U.S. be given the opportunity to get something like a driver's license?

What's happening in Minnesota right now?

A bill that would give the OK for Minnesota to start issuing IDs that are Real ID compliant passed the House last month.

It would give Minnesotans the option of getting a Real ID-compliant license, so you could still use it on domestic flights at the airport, or to get into certain government facilities. Those who don't care about that could get a standard ID (like the one you have right now). They'd cost the same.

That bill also includes language preventing undocumented immigrants from getting a driver's license, writing into law a policy Minnesota has had for awhile, the Pioneer Press explained.

It passed 72-58, meaning it was mostly Republicans in favor, and mostly Democrats against.

The Senate version is still in committee.

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