- Associated Press - Monday, March 21, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s Senate took the first step Monday toward resolving a dispute with the federal government over driver’s licenses, but Minnesota residents worried about being turned away from domestic flights aren’t in the clear yet.

The Senate’s 63-2 vote allows state officials to study how to upgrade driver’s licenses to satisfy the federal Real ID Act, a 2005 measure meant to boost security and combat identity fraud after Sept. 11. The Legislature will need to approve that plan in the coming weeks to meet Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders’ hopes of putting a new license system in place by October.

Minnesota is one of just five states that haven’t upgraded its IDs to meet the national standards. Though federal officials won’t start checking for the upgraded IDs at airport gates until October of 2020, legislative leaders want a new system in place by this fall so Minnesota residents can get their current licenses replaced in their normal, four-year renewal period.

Several lawmakers expressed concerns Monday about the cost and privacy implications of Real ID, echoing sentiments from 2009 that led Minnesota’s Legislature to bar the state from complying in a near-unanimous vote.

Sen. Warren Limmer, a Maple Grove Republican who spearheaded the ban, ultimately voted to relax that prohibition but warned he may not support it when it comes time to put the new standards in place. He said the convenience of easily boarding an airplane shouldn’t trump the concern that the state is giving up its autonomy over its IDs.

“I don’t know if we’re gaining anything, but what we are losing is another page or two of our personal privacy protection and the constitutional right to be anonymous in our society,” he said.

The federal government has sought to soothe those concerns, portraying Real ID as merely a set of minimum standards. The list of upgrades in Minnesota is relatively short: The federal government requires residents to submit a birth certificate and Social Security number to get a driver’s license, and the new IDs would need some federal markings.

Democratic Sen. Scott Dibble said he thinks the state’s newest form of ID - Enhanced Driver’s Licenses made available in 2014 - may help bring the cost down. But the 2009 ban has lawmakers largely in the dark on what the final price tag may be.

Real ID requirements are already in place to enter nuclear power plants and military bases. Part of Dibble’s bill would immediately seek an extension from the federal government.

The House was expected to act on the bill later this week.

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