SAINT PAUL, Minn. (March 17, 2017) – The Minnesota Senate rejected a that bill would have set the state on the path toward compliance with the federal REAL ID program, but supporters of federal driver’s license mandates still hope to pass legislation to implement REAL ID during this session.

A coalition of nine representatives introduced House Bill 3 (HF3) in January. The legislation would have repealed a 2009 Minnesota law prohibiting the Department of Public Safety (DPS) from “taking any action to implement or to plan for the implementation” of REAL ID and created a structure to implement the national ID program.

The House passed the measure 72-58. But the HF3 ran into trouble in the Senate and ultimately failed by a 29-38 vote.

Several Republicans joined with every Senate Democrat to kill the measure. Republicans opposed the bill because of its dubious constitutionality and privacy concerns.

“It gives the federal government an opportunity to create a driver’s license that creates a chilling combination of personal data access and endless surveillance opportunities,” said Sen. Warren Limmer, a Maple Grove Republican who has long opposed Real ID told the Pioneer Press.

According to local media reports, Democrats generally opposed the measure because language in the bill would make it difficult for the governor to create a new class of driver’s licenses for undocumented, or illegal immigrants.

The death of HF3 hasn’t closed the door on REAL ID implementation in Minnesota. Supporters continue to look for ways to pass legislation authorizing the national ID system. The Legislature adjourns May 22.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told the Pioneer Press the he talked to Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk about the bill earlier this week.

“We’re trying to find a place that we both agree; it is the only issue we’re talking about. It’s more difficult than I expected it to be. In the end, we have to get it done.”


President G.W. Bush signed REAL ID into law in 2005. It essentially co-opts the states into creating a national ID system. The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate a national ID.

Under the law, all 50 states were supposed comply with the federal law by 2009. But, states rebelled against REAL ID for several reasons, including privacy concerns and the fact that Congress didn’t provide any funding for the mandates it expects states to implement. Some states, such as Minnesota, passed laws expressly prohibiting implementation of the act.

The federal government found coercing unwilling states wasn’t as easy as anticipated. Instead of forcing the issue, the feds issued waiver after waiver after waiver. At the beginning of 2016, 28 states, including Minnesota, remained non-compliant, nullifying the national ID system in effect.

But last year, the federal government ramped up bullying tactics in an effort to force reticent states into compliance. On Oct. 13, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent letters to five states, including Minnesota, denying their request for a time extensions to bring their driver’s licenses in compliance with REAL ID. If the feds follow through on their threats, this  means that in 2018, residents of Minnesota could find themselves on a virtual no-fly list. They will need to have alternate ID, such as a passport, in order to clear TSA screening.

As part of the scare-tactic, signs have been placed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport proclaiming the state’s driver’s licenses will be no good as of Jan. 2018.

But if history provides any indication, the feds will not follow through on their threats to punish non-compliant states. The federal government has played this game of brinkmanship for years, ultimately backing down and extending deadlines. It seems highly unlikely the feds will be willing to weather the political fallout the will result from keeping millions of Americans off commercial aircraft.

The Minnesota legislature should refuse to back down, and it should emphatically reject implementation of REAL ID.

REAL ID creates huge administrative burdens for state governments, while providing only minimal federal funds for implementing its onerous requirements. At the same time, it does nothing to combat terrorism and puts Americans at greater risk for invasions of privacy and identity theft. REAL ID represents not just an unfunded mandate, but an unconstitutional expansion of federal power over something reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment.

For more on the case for state resistance to REAL ID, click HERE.



Mike Maharrey

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