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Real ID fix off to quick start in House, would bring state driver's licenses in line with federal rule

ST. PAUL—Minnesotans may soon have a clearer answer on whether their driver's licenses will work next year for federal purposes.

By January 2018, everyone who wants to board an airplane will need Real ID-compliant identification. Passports and enhanced driver's licenses, which Minnesota now offers for an extra fee, meet those requirements, but because the state long resisted the decade-old rule, the state's regular driver's licenses do not.

Last year, lawmakers were stymied on passing a bill that would bring Minnesota licenses in line with federal Real ID requirements. But in the opening week of this year's session, the House is working quickly to make sure the licenses will change soon.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Crown-area Republican, told a business group Wednesday that he hoped the Legislature would approve the Real ID fix by the end of January. The House, he said later, would certainly get it done.

"We're going to pass it this month," Daudt said Thursday.

On Thursday, the Minnesota House introduced its bills to change the state's licenses in compliance with federal rules. The measure would allow Minnesotans to choose between a license that meets the federal requirements and one that does not, which would be stamped "not for federal identification."

"The time to act is now," said Rep. Dennis Smith, a Maple Grove Republican and the bill's sponsor. His measure to put the federal standards in place was only the third bill introduced in the House, a sign of its high priority. The House bill, if it becomes law, will make the new licenses available to Minnesotans by Jan. 1, 2018.

The Senate might take a bit longer to act.

"I think we will do it this session. Remember, the Senate is more deliberate," said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican who lives near Nisswa. He said he is hopeful that Donald Trump's incoming administration will repeal the Real ID rules.

In 2016, there was bipartisan support for changing the state's licenses so Minnesotans could use them at airport security, military bases and for other federal purposes. But there was disagreement on how exactly the licenses should change.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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