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Driver's license compliance could cost Minnesota $5 million

ST. PAUL-Freed from a gag rule on planning for federal Real ID driver's license standards, the Minnesota Public Safety Department reported Thursday that it could cost the state more than $5 million for the state to adopt the rules this year.

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ST. PAUL – Freed from a gag rule on planning for federal Real ID driver's license standards, the Minnesota Public Safety Department reported Thursday that it could cost the state more than $5 million for the state to adopt the rules this year.

In a report, prepared for lawmakers to discuss Friday, the agency released a list of costs and steps needed for Minnesota driver's licenses to be considered secure enough for federal officials to accept them at airport security lines and other federal uses. The federal government said late last year that starting in 2018, it would begin rejecting state licenses as sufficient identification for airport and other federal purposes.

Although lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed last month to lift a 7-year-old law that banned the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from planning or implementing the Real ID standards, the hard work of adopting the decade-old federal rules has just begun.

In order to bring Minnesota's driver's licenses up to snuff, according to the federal government, often Capitol officials would have to design and approve a law adopting a series of changes to the laws and rules governing identification cards.

Backers say that it's fully doable.

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The report, said Republican Rep. Dennis Smith, shows that the state could take all the proper steps to enable the state to begin issuing the Real ID compliant licenses by October of this year. Smith, R-Maple Grove, says that if the state begins issuing the new identification by the end of this year, most people who want the Real ID licenses could get them by 2018 during their normal renewal times.

The report, Smith said, "shows that it is possible."

Dayton, who had pushed for a special session of the Legislature late last year to get the Real ID work started, said Thursday afternoon that perhaps final implementation can wait.

"Whether we can get it done in this session? I don't know," Dayton said. "It doesn't have to be done this session, in my opinion, but it would be good for Minnesotans to have the clarity."

If Minnesota received an extension from the federal government the state's licenses may be acceptable for federal purposes through 2020.

Lawmakers are pushing to complete their work this year. Smith said he is already speaking to House members about adopting Real ID standards and should have a bill ready to introduce "very soon."

To adopt the Real ID standards, designed after the Sept. 11 attacks to increase the security of states' driver's licenses and other identification cards, state officials would have to confirm to the federal Department of Homeland Security that it is prepared for the new security measures and the "security, confidentially, and integrity" of its storage of information.

It would cost the state at least $2 million to reprogram its computer system to adopt to the new rules.

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"This system is very old and fragile and will be replaced," the report said. "Any changes to the current system are expensive."

The report said that if the state waited until the public safety agency had a new computer system in place, slated to be online by 2018, it could save $2 million in programming costs and $300 in training per staffer.

The report may allay some of the privacy concerns Minnesotans had when the state initially banned Real ID standards here. It takes pains to note that the state would not share driver license data with other states and it would not feed data into a federal database.

Lawmakers and the governor have also considered adopted a dual-track system that would allow residents to choose between getting a Real ID-compliant license and a standard license. In Wisconsin, which offered people that choice, most residents opted for the standard license.

How would Real ID be different?

There are extra security checks for states issuing federally compliant licenses to make sure people getting them are who they say they are, and states need to keep extra data about the recipients. Federally approved licenses also have a gold star on them making clear they meet the new standards.

 

Would I have to get a new license?

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That is not clear. Some states, like Wisconsin, allow license holders a choice between getting a Real ID and a standard license. Most Wisconsinites have opted against getting the federally compliant licenses, which means they may have to bring extra identification, like a passport, to board planes in the future. If Minnesota begins issuing Real ID-compliant licenses by the end of this year, most residents would be able to get a new identification in time for 2018 if they renew at their already scheduled times.

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