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Minnesota Opinion: Minn. Legislature should pass compromise Real ID bill

The objections have been noted. A compromise bill has emerged.

So, the Legislature should accept the new plan, and pass the Minnesota Senate's version of Real ID. And now would be better than later.

That's because if the bill fails, Minnesotans no longer will be able to use their driver's licenses to board commercial aircraft after Jan. 1.

And if legislators wants every Minnesotan to think of the 2017 Legislature as a failed session, all the lawmakers have to do is let that happen.

The federal Real ID Act says that states must follow certain guidelines in order to have their licenses work as valid identification. Minnesota is one of the few states that not only is out of compliance, but also has not secured an extension from the Department of Homeland Security.

In fact, Minnesota has even seemed at times to willfully defy the federal law. That means the state's conduct has gone beyond a simple failure to secure an extension.

The mini-rebellion has had a bipartisan basis. That's because in Minnesota, liberals and conservatives alike have found reasons to object to Real ID.

The Senate bill's great strength is that the bill addresses both sets of reasons.

The liberal reasons center on the fact that the Real ID requirements — which were, after all, implemented to make it harder for people to get fake IDs — involve documents such as birth certificates that can prove citizenship.

So, the Minnesota House's Real ID bill sparked some liberals' ire, because that bill said applicants could get Real IDs only if they had lawful status.

The Senate's Real ID bill nicely finesses that issue. It does so by not mentioning it.

You see, "Minnesota currently has a rule that denies undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a driver's license," as has reported.

The House bill would upgrade that rule to a statute. The Senate bill instead accepts the status quo in the interest of quickly getting Real ID-compliant licenses into Minnesota travelers' hands.

For their part, conservatives have objected to Real ID because of privacy concerns with the federal government. But "without getting into the nuances of the privacy argument, the Real ID legislation moving through the Minnesota House and Senate creates two tracks of driver's licenses — one that complies with Real ID and one that does not," wrote Peter Nelson last month in an important column for the conservative, Minnesota-based Center for the American Experiment.

"Thus, anyone with privacy concerns can opt out. This is an entirely reasonable compromise. ...

"The state's implementation of Real ID is really about guaranteeing convenient air travel for Minnesota residents," Nelson continued. "To help Minnesota travelers, it's now past time for state lawmakers to pass Real ID."

And for that to happen, the best vehicle is the compromise Senate bill.