ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers Thursday started work on fixing a problem with state driver's licenses that could someday keep Minnesotans from boarding commercial airliners.
The federal government is requiring every state to issue high security driver's licenses, which will be required to board airplanes and enter some federal buildings.
Even though Gov. Dayton says the legislature should meet immediately to fix Minnesota driver's licenses, top state lawmakers believe there's still time for the state to act in a March regular session, and that a special session isn't necessary.
"Could we be prepared for one? Probably," said Rep. Peggy Scott, (R) Andover, the Chair of the Civil Law and Data Practices Committee. "Do I think one is necessary? I don't think so."
The Department of Homeland Security says it will give the state 120 days notice before imposing the new Real ID requirement, and even then the deadline could be extended.
But business leaders say the uncertainty is bad for commerce.
"This isn't just about flights, although that will be a significant problem as well, down the road," said Bentley Graves of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. "This is already something that is causing problems for employers in Minnesota."
Meanwhile, civil rights advocates call it an unconstitutional restriction on Americans' right to travel.
"Any attempt to impose a new ID requirement for air travel would be vigourously litigated, and we believe, overturned," said Edward Hasbrouck of The Identity Project.
Representative Rick Hansen, (DFL) South St. Paul, is proposing to use part of the state's $1.8 billion surplus to pay for an immediate switchover.
And he says he's already getting an earful from worried constituents.
"'Get it done!' that's what I am hearing," he said. "People are saying: 'how come you people can't get this done?' "
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