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Dayton signs Real ID bill

June 2016 mock-up of what a Real ID Minnesota driver's license could look like. The actual Real ID license will be developed now that the 2017 Legislature passed a Real ID compliance plan. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota has adopted the federal Real ID standards for driver's licenses after years of debate.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill the Minnesota Legislature overwhelmingly approved on Thursday morning, May 18. "I am very pleased that the Legislature has finally passed this critical bipartisan measure, which will allow Minnesotans to continue to board airplanes, and access federal facilities, with a compliant driver's license," the Democratic governor said. Controversy over privacy, the Constitution's 10th Amendment and treatment of undocumented immigrants arose as the legislation wended its way through the Capitol. But in the end, a compromise brought nearly every lawmaker and the governor on board.

The votes, 120-11 in the House and 57-8 in the Senate, came Wednesday to help end the saga of bringing Real ID to the state. Anxious Minnesotans may no longer worry if their licenses will be accepted at federal checkpoints, like airports and military bases, next year.

"This bill's been a long haul," said Rep. Leon Lillie, D-North St. Paul. "I'm glad it's here."

Minnesota banned Real ID compliance in 2009 and it took until 2016, when the federal government said it was really serious about the requirements, for the state to remove the ban. Over the past two years, lawmakers have debated the issue vigorously.

It took until the final days of the 2017 legislative session to actually get it done.

By the time the bill came to the House floor, members were all talked out. It took the House about six minutes to debate and approve the measure. The Senate took only 17 minutes to approve it.

It will take a bit of time for the state to produce the new licenses and the security system as required by the federal government. The new law would require the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to begin issuing licenses by Oct. 1, 2018.

Minnesotans will only have to get a new license when your current license expires.

If a license has not expired and a Minnesotan wants one of the new licenses, a new Real ID-compliant license may be obtained once they are available for a little extra money to have its expiration date extended.

The measure allows people to choose between a Real ID license and a "non-compliant" license. The non-compliant license will not require the extra checks needed for a Real ID license and it cannot be used for federal purposes. Those with non-compliant licenses, though, will need an extra form of identification, like a passport, for airport security and other federal purposes.

Many Democrats and the Democratic governor wanted to change the law to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses to make the roads, and the immigrants, safer. But Dayton has repeatedly said current law does not allow him to create driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants administratively. Many Republicans wanted to legally ban undocumented immigrants from getting licenses to prevent the possibility of administrative action. In the end, the Real ID measure is silent on that question.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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