House version of Real ID costly, contains unnecessary language

This session, Minnesota policymakers are considering bills to bring our state’s driver’s licenses up to required federal Real ID standards. Real ID compliant licenses are already required to gain access to federal facilities and nuclear power plants. Soon they will be needed to board planes, which has policymakers anxious this session to make progress toward compliance. Bills are now under consideration in conference committee, but the House bill (House File 3959) includes both unnecessary provisions and unnecessary costs.

Under the House bill, the state would need to offer Real ID compliant driver’s licenses by this fall, a very tight implementation timeline that dramatically increases the cost. The Department of Public Safety has testified to major problems with this approach:

  • The high cost could be easily avoided. The department is already scheduled to overhaul their computer system next year. If the state implements Real ID in conjunction with the system changeover, the Department of Public Safety would be able to absorb the costs. But implementing Real ID on a short deadline using the state’s current system will mean an additional $7.5 million in programming, training, and card costs in FY 2017 and will likely delay the system overhaul, since resources will instead be devoted to Real ID.
  • Such an early implementation of Real ID would have required the Department of Public Safety to start working with their vendor for the computer system by May 15, a deadline that has already passed.

The House bill also includes unnecessary language that requires applicants to demonstrate lawful status to obtain a non-Real ID compliant license (the license most Minnesotans use today). Unauthorized immigrants are already unable to receive driver’s licenses in Minnesota. And while policymakers should take a good look at expanding access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status because it would strengthen the economy and expand opportunity for about 78,000 Minnesotans, they should leave immigration policies out of the Real ID debate.

Policymakers in the House would be wise to look to the Senate version (Senate File 3589), which implements Real ID in line with federal requirements and in sync with the new computer system, requiring no additional cost, and leaves out duplicative restrictions against unauthorized immigrants receiving driver’s licenses.

-Clark Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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