Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday that he and state lawmakers would have until the end of April at the latest to move toward compliance with the federal Real ID requirement if they are to avoid disrupting airplane travel for some Minnesotans.
A day earlier, the Department of Homeland Security had denied Dayton’s request for an extension to adhere to the new federal standard. Dayton said his office has been verbally told by Homeland Security officials that between now and Jan. 1, the federal agency will trigger a 120-day warning that the flight restrictions will be coming into affect.
At that point, Minnesotans without a passport or other federally certified IDs would be unable to board commercial domestic flights. Dayton reiterated his request that state lawmakers take up the compliance issue in a special legislative session that he wants to occur in January.
“This is not about people of one political view agreeing with people of another political view in Minnesota,” Dayton said. “This is about all of us who have responsibility for enacting state laws and policies to satisfy the federal government.”
Already, people without sufficient federal identification are barred from entering certain federal facilities that are at least semi-accessible to the public, including military bases. The only facility in Minnesota that’s included on that list is the Whipple Federal Building near Fort Snelling, Dayton said.
The first step to fixing the problem, the governor said, is that lawmakers need to repeal a 2009 state law that was adopted specifically in opposition to the movement toward Real ID.
The federal law was born in the wake of security concerns raised by the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. By 2009, a number of Minnesota lawmakers raised concerns about civil liberty implications and the specter of government surveillance that can accompany a federally enforced identification requirement.
Under the 2009 law, the state commissioner of public safety is specifically prohibited from even discussing Real ID with officials from the federal government.
“It’s just an absurd imperative,” Dayton said.
Dayton said undoing that provision would send a signal to Homeland Security that Minnesota politicians are serious about coming into compliance, and he suggested the agency at that point would be more willing to grant an additional extension in order for the state to actually start processing new IDs and getting them into Minnesotans’ pockets.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security did not return a telephone call seeking comment. In a letter that Dayton’s office released Thursday, two assistant Homeland Security secretaries bluntly rejected the extension that was requested by both Dayton and, separately, by GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and a group of his colleagues.
Both Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, have indicated their support for making Minnesota compliant with Real ID.
But the two legislative leaders and Dayton have not yet reached agreement on a full agenda for Dayton’s desired January special session, in which he also wants lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers on the Iron Range.
Dayton said that if they can’t reach accord on those two items, he would be willing to call a brief special session to specifically discuss the Real ID issue.
“I think it’s very important we send a message to the federal government that we are serious about this and we are going to bring ourselves into compliance,” he said.
But Dayton also acknowledged that waiting until the regular legislative session, which starts March 8, would still leave lawmakers with sufficient time to deal with the federal ID compliance issue then.
Patrick Condon • 651-925-5049