Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Scott Dibble said he is committed to passing a law this session to implement the federal government’s Real ID requirements, ensuring Minnesotans can board commercial airliners and enter federal buildings in the future.
Department of Public Safety leaders told senators Monday that the new ID program would cost between $4.3 and $5.1 million, an expense that includes producing new cards, training driver’s license agents and upgrading the state motor vehicle computer system.
The presentation of the report brought Minnesota a step closer toward resolving its yearslong dispute with the federal government. The Real ID Act of 2005 set more stringent requirements for licenses as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Minnesota politicians objected over concerns over mass collection of private data.
In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature barred the Department of Public Safety from complying with the measure.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security rejected the state’s request for an extension last year as a looming deadline threatened to prevent Minnesotans from boarding commercial airlines and enter federal buildings or military bases.
Then in January, the federal government approved a two-year extension on enforcing the law for air travelers in Minnesota and other states. Minnesota legislators lifted the ban this spring and gave the department a few weeks to study the issue and report back.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who has been a leader in the state’s effort to conform with the Real ID issue, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson early in April asking for another extension so Minnesotans could enter federal buildings and military bases with their current IDs.
The Department of Public Safety officials said the state could start issuing the cards as soon as October 2016 or wait until July 2017. The cards meeting the new federal standards would have a small gold star in the upper corner. Those that don’t meet Real ID standards would say, “not for federal purposes.”
Some legislators voiced concerns about the cost to driver’s license holders.
Dawn Olson, driver and vehicle services director, told senators her research showed there would be little difference in the price of Real IDs and those that weren’t compliant with new standards.
After the meeting, Dibble questioned whether motorists would see additional expenses because they would have to renew their driver’s licenses sooner than the standard four-year cycle.
Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he’s also concerned about how the state would pay for the new program, with the budgetary surplus largely tied up with other priorities.
“Are we going to foist that expense onto individuals or are we going to absorb it somehow?” he asked.