Gov. Mark Dayton and leading House Republicans separately asked federal authorities Friday for more time to comply with the new Real ID requirement that has left uncertainty about the ability of Minnesotans to board planes after Jan. 1.
“I remain committed to working to find a solution to allow Minnesotans to board aircraft in compliance with Real ID,” the DFL governor wrote in his letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. In their own letter to Johnson, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and several colleagues mounted a similar request, and vowed that lawmakers would put Minnesota “on the road to compliance” by the end of the regular legislative session next spring.
Minnesota is among the last states not fully compliant with the Jan. 1 deadline for the more secure driver’s licenses and ID cards, thanks to a 2009 state law banning the kind of secure state ID the feds are now demanding. The federal Real ID law grew out of recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, but it raised concerns of privacy and federal overreach for some legislators.
Without a legislative change, as many as 4 million Minnesotans could be turned away at airport security screenings. Louisiana, New York and New Hampshire all recently received deadline extensions, Dayton noted in his letter.
“The department will review the request in the coming days,” said Amanda DeGroff, a DHS spokeswoman. “The Department of Homeland Security is committed to working with state officials to ensure compliance with Real ID Act standards and, where warranted, to grant a state an extension.”
Add to special session?
Even as Dayton and legislators talk of solving the Real ID dilemma in the legislative session that starts March 8, Dayton is newly proposing a special session before the end of this year, or early in 2016, to extend unemployment benefits to a small group of laid-off Iron Range steelworkers. The bipartisan resolve over Real ID, and a handful of other concerns percolating among legislators, raised the possibility Friday that the possible special session could grow to cover more than one issue.
Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said Friday that some DFL senators have had talks with Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, about including other bills. Hayden and some colleagues are interested in legislation to address racial economic disparities in Minnesota, a problem that recently has had Dayton’s attention.
Hayden said any bills to that end would be narrowly focused and previously vetted by legislators, mentioning proposals aimed at developing the state’s workforce and supporting minority entrepreneurs.
“These are things that are teed up and ready to go,” Hayden said. “If there was going to be a special session in short order, I’d want to do something members are already acquainted with.”
Senate DFLers are meeting Monday to discuss the possible special session.
Dayton wants to help laid-off steelworkers by lengthening the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits beyond the state-mandated 26 weeks.
By the end of October, according to the administration, companies including Minntac, U.S. Steel and Magnetation had laid off an estimated 1,413 workers in response to plunging global steel prices.
Later this month, 74 of those workers will see their weekly benefits expire. Next February and March, an additional 596 workers will lose theirs.
The benefit amount is about half what the worker made per week while employed, with a maximum weekly amount of $640. It was not immediately clear how much longer Dayton wants to extend the benefits; the governor, whose father died Friday morning, was not available for comment.
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, argued that a longer-than-usual period of unemployment benefits would be appropriate for the steelworkers since many have delayed job searches or retraining in hopes that the mining companies would summon them back to work.
“I think it would give these workers time to get a better sense of whether they’re going to get their jobs back or not,” Tomassoni said. “If not, they’ll have time to get into a course in a college or transition to a different job or industry. Filling that gap is the issue here right now.”
Staff writer Ricardo Lopez contributed.