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Feds give states years to meet new ID standards

ST. PAUL -- Americans may board commercial airlines for at least two more years with state identification cards that do not meet new federal guidelines, but it was not clear after Friday's announcement if a rush to change Minnesota law will continue.

ST. PAUL -- Americans may board commercial airlines for at least two more years with state identification cards that do not meet new federal guidelines, but it was not clear after Friday's announcement if a rush to change Minnesota law will continue.

The federal Department of Homeland Security announced it will not require Real ID-compliant cards until Jan. 22, 2018. However, states making progress to distribute the enhanced IDs could receive extensions until Oct. 1, 2020, when everyone would be required to use Real ID cards or another form of ID such as passports.

The bottom line from Friday's announcement is if Minnesota makes enough progress in meeting Real ID requirements, its residents might not need the new IDs until Oct. 1, 2020.

In Minnesota, many state leaders have said a special legislative session is needed to comply with federal requirements. They thought the new requirements would begin later this year, but federal officials Friday said that was a misunderstanding and that never was the plan.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman told Forum News Service last month that the department would announce around the first of the year the deadline to conform with Real ID, and the department would give states like Minnesota at least 120 days to begin to make progress toward compliance.

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"Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. "Until Jan. 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel."

Even after the deadlines, if a Minnesotan does not have a Real ID-compliant identification, passports and some other documents could be used to board planes.

It was not immediately clear if Minnesota officials would back off on their move to deal with Real ID in a special session or wait until the regular session begins March 8. Early reaction from Republicans tended to move it off the special session table.

"The state of Minnesota will continue its efforts to comply with the federal law, in accordance with the guidance provided today," Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's spokesman said Friday.

House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said: "This is good news and means the Legislature has ample time to continue efforts to comply with Real ID during the upcoming regular session."

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, just said that "House Republicans remain committed to finding a resolution as soon as possible."

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, said Real ID can wait.

“We now have the necessary information from the federal government to allow making adjustments to Minnesota's driver's license and state ID cards in a rational manner and not by attempting to jam something through in a special legislative session," Lueck said.

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Also, as of Monday federal facilities such as military bases and nuclear power plants, as well as some other federal facilities, will not accept Minnesota driver's licenses or ID cards for entrance. Another form of ID could be accepted.

The Monday deadline does not create a new requirement to show IDs, but applies to federal facilities that already require IDs.

To meet Real ID requirements a state identification card or driver's license must contain improved technology over regular IDs and the state must collect more information from the applicant.

"For a license or identification card to be Real ID compliant, the state issuing it must, for example, incorporate anti-counterfeit technology into the card, verify the applicant’s identity and conduct background checks for employees involved in issuing driver’s licenses," Johnson said. "The overall goal of the Real ID Act passed by Congress is to prevent the fraudulent issuance and use of driver’s licenses and identification cards, thereby ensuring the safety and security of the American public."

Homeland Security officials said that even states like Minnesota that have not tried to meet Real ID requirements have improved their driver's licenses and ID cards to be more secure.

A federal homeland security official, speaking on background to reporters, said the Real ID Act passed in 2005 does not create a national ID or a federal database. Those are two arguments opponents, including Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota, used to refuse to meet the guidelines.

In 2009, 200 of 201 Minnesota legislators and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty supported a measure that to this day forbids the Minnesota Public Safety Department from doing anything to comply with Real ID or even to make plans to implement the guidelines. Dayton on Friday said that he has asked Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman for driver's license information, but has not discussed Real ID with her for fear of breaking state law.

Dayton said that until the gag order is lifted, Dohman's department cannot even lay out options the state has in meeting Real ID guidelines.

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Dohman's department is responsible for state-issued IDs and driver's licenses.

Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington state and American Samoa have made little progress to comply with Real ID, federal officials say.

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