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What you need to know about your driver's license

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Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety2 / 2

The status of Minnesota driver's licenses has been in the news for months now. Some news reports have scared Minnesotans with claims that you'll soon be unable to board airplanes. The 2016 legislative session is now less than a month away and with all of the information swirling about this topic, I'll talk about the history of the issue and the potential options.

The REAL ID Act was passed by the federal government in 2005 as part of an effort to improve the accuracy of state-issued IDs and to inhibit fraudulent identification used in terrorist activity. These improvements were part of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations that urged the federal government to set minimum security standards for government-issued identification, like driver's licenses.

Here in Minnesota, opposition to the federal REAL ID was swift and strong. Primary concerns centered on data privacy and who would oversee such a large database of citizen information. The Minnesota state legislature subsequently voted, nearly unanimously, to not only reject REAL ID compliance, but to also prohibit the Commissioner of Public Safety from taking any action to plan for the implementation of REAL ID.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced the final effective dates for the implementation of REAL ID. Presently, 46 states are either fully compliant with the REAL ID Act or have been granted extension by Homeland Security. The remaining four states, including Minnesota, now have hard deadlines to implement necessary changes.

The deadlines most pertinent to Minnesotans is this: Starting Jan. 22, 2018, passengers with a driver's license issued by Minnesota will need to show an alternative form of identification when they board flights, if the state is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act.

Minnesota has less than two years to get all systems in place for compliance. Should Minnesota choose not to comply with the federal standards, passengers could continue to use any of the other various forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration, such as a passport, passport card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID or federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID.

The first step, which will probably happen this session, is for the legislature to lift or relax the ban passed on the Department of Public Safety.

Of the proposals that have been discussed at the REAL ID taskforce meetings, I tend to support a solution that creates a two-tier driver's license system. This two-tier system would allow Minnesotans the option of getting a driving-only license. This license would allow the individual to drive, but they would need alternative documentation to board a federally regulated commercial airplane or access secure federal facilities.

The other license option would be a REAL ID-compliant license and would allow Minnesotans to board planes and enter facilities with their compliant state-issued driver's license.

You should also be aware that Minnesota already has a REAL ID-compliant driver's license option. You may have heard about Minnesota's Enhanced Driver's License. I authored this legislation in 2009 and it was passed in 2010. The enhanced license is completely voluntary, an opt-in alternative. This license requires more documentation than a typical driver's license including proof of date of birth, proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of Social Security number and others. However, the enhanced driver's license is also already REAL ID-compliant.

If you are interested in this license option, you can view the full list of documents at this website.

Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate.

Roger Reinert

Roger Reinert is a Duluth resident.