The federal government has denied a request from the state’s political leaders for more time to get compliant with the new Real ID requirement, but it won’t immediately imperil the ability of Minnesotans to board commercial flights after Jan. 1.
In a letter sent Monday, two assistant secretaries at the Department of Homeland Security wrote to Gov. Mark Dayton that “Minnesota has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance with the Real ID standards that would warrant granting your request for extension,” the letter stated.
That means Minnesota driver’s licenses are officially not sufficient identification for the general public to be allowed on U.S. military bases and other federal facilities with semi-restricted areas that are accessible with proper identification. The list of facilities like that in Minnesota are few, but it could be an issue for Minnesotans with business in places like Washington, D.C.
At a still-unspecified date in 2016, Homeland Security will extend that prohibition to the boarding of commercial flights. Unless the Minnesota Legislature and Dayton have repealed a 2009 law by then that bars Real ID on state licenses, then Minnesotans at that point would need a passport even for domestic flights.
But the agency has promised at least 120 days’ notice before that requirement is implemented, meaning Minnesota politicians appear to still have a window to fix the Real ID problem before a significant percentage of the state’s residents are directly impacted.
Both Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, joined by a handful of Republican colleagues, asked for the extension that was denied this week. Both the governor and lawmakers vowed to tackle the issue in the legislative session that starts on March 8; some have suggested it could be dealt with if lawmakers meet for a brief special session that Dayton has suggested occur before then.
Dayton did not immediately respond to the letter but a spokesman said he was likely to discuss it on Wednesday. Daudt said Minnesota travelers could be assured they don’t need to worry about it in the holiday travel season.
“The federal government has assured us they will provide at least 120 days’ notice to prepare for the next phase of Real ID and we will continue to work with the governor to achieve compliance,” said a statement from Daudt.
Of 43 separate provisions in the federal Real ID regulation, Minnesota under its current law is currently meeting 30 of them but falling short on 13 others, according to the letter to Dayton from Assistant Homeland Security Secretaries Alan Bersin and Philip McNamara.
“Minnesota may renew its extension request if there are developments or additional information provided regarding your state’s progress toward meeting the outstanding requirements, the reasons that these standards remain unmet, and the reasons for continued noncompliance,” the agency wrote.
Unlike Minnesota, three other states — Louisiana, New York and New Hampshire — recently received deadline extensions. But two other states — New Mexico and Washington — saw similar requests denied.
The 2009 law that Minnesota must now repeal to comply with Real ID stemmed from concerns of federal overreach by legislators at the time.
Not only does it ban the implementation of secure state identification in the vein of Real ID, it even prohibits preliminary measures like negotiations with federal officials related to the requirement.
Homeland Security officials aren’t saying when they’ll trigger the four-month countdown to extend the Real ID requirement to commercial flights.
But the letter to Dayton hints it won’t be long: “The Department expects to announced the timing and nature of the next phase of Real ID enforcement soon,” it states.
Patrick Condon • 651-925-5049