The challenges surrounding finding solutions to the federal Real ID Act demand that we balance the responsibilities of protecting Minnesotans’ personal data and ensuring that Minnesotans are able to fly with their standard identification cards. My focus has been on creating a simple, convenient and expedited system to allow our residents to board commercial airplanes or enter certain federal facilities without worry.

The U.S. Congress passed Real ID in 2005 with a simple goal: to make it less likely for potential terrorists to obtain a fake ID card. A majority of U.S. states are currently or are in the process of becoming Real ID-compliant. Some states, including Minnesota, rejected this federal mandate, with half of the state legislatures passing resolutions refusing compliance.

Without meaningful steps that put Minnesota on a path to compliance, the federal government can and will prevent Minnesotans who do not have a Real ID-compliant identification from getting on airplanes in 2018. On Monday, our state’s request for an extension was again denied because we haven’t taken the appropriate steps to become compliant. Until we do, the deadline of 2018 will prevent Minnesotans from boarding commercial airplanes. We have to act now.

I’ve spoken with privacy advocates and other interested groups, including the author of the May 10 commentary “Real ID solution looks set to crash and burn.” As is often the case, those with predetermined opinions fail to take opposing views into account except to dismiss others as uninformed, incomprehensible, prejudiced or just plain wrong.

Personally, I believe a one-tier system is the easiest and most expedient option for Minnesotans, but I’m willing to do what can be done in order to move forward on this important issue.

After listening to other perspectives, the House Ways and Means Committee amended the Real ID bill, of which I am the chief House author, to allow for a two-tier driver’s license system. On Tuesday, the House passed my proposal on a bipartisan vote of 87-42. If the bill ultimately is signed by the governor, Minnesotans can choose between a Real ID-compliant license that will ensure that they can easily get on an airplane or enter federal facilities and a second option for those who wish to opt out of the federally mandated Real ID requirements.

Whether you support one tier or two, Minnesotans deserve the peace of mind knowing that they can fly to see a relative in another state, visit their child on a military base or take their family on vacation with a Minnesota-issued identification card.

Steering Real ID, or any bill for that matter, through the Legislature is fraught with challenges. My hope is that legislators won’t delay action on Real ID in order to advocate for controversial special interests. While some may believe the process is mere gamesmanship, a true failure is not finding a reasonable and acceptable solution. I believe we’ve done so with Real ID.


Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, is a member of the Minnesota House.