- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota lawmaker who staunchly opposes upgrading state photo IDs to meet new federal requirements said Wednesday he won’t block a vote on the measure, potentially clearing the way for the state to comply with the Real ID Act and avoid domestic travel disruptions starting next year.

Minnesota lawmakers have struggled for years to comply with the federal law, which was meant to boost security and combat identity fraud after the Sept. 11 attacks, before the new IDs are required to board domestic flights starting early next year. Minnesota’s Legislature blocked the state from complying in 2009 before reversing it last year in an unsuccessful mad dash to get federal approval.

Sen. Warren Limmer led the charge on that 2009 ban, and the GOP takeover of the Senate this fall elevated him to chair a powerful committee that could shape or block any efforts to comply. Limmer said Wednesday he still opposes the federal law but that he would let a proposal to upgrade Minnesota IDs come to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs.

“I think it’s a set up for the greatest government intrusion in our personal lives,” he said.

Minnesota is one of just eight states that haven’t complied with Real ID or secured an extension from the federal government. Legislation progressing in the House and recently introduced in the Senate would allow residents to choose between getting a new, upgraded license and the old IDs that will no longer work at airports and other federal facilities.

But the dispute isn’t over. Part of the GOP’s legislation would specifically ban people who are living in the U.S. illegally from getting a Minnesota driver’s license.

Rep. Dennis Smith, a Maple Grove Republican who authored the Real ID bill, stressed that’s not a change; state rules have precluded immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from getting IDs since 2003. But advocates for immigrant communities fought to have that provision removed in a House committee hearing Wednesday, saying it’s unnecessary and means more unlicensed and uninsured drivers will be on Minnesota roads for longer.

“This is at its core a public safety issue,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis.


Associated Press writer Kyle Potter contributed to this report.

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