By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As early as next year, Minnesotans might need more than their driver’s licenses to board a plane.

Minnesota is one of four states with driver’s licenses that don’t comply with a stricter federal standard. The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t given a timeline on when this rule goes into effect for domestic air travel, but it does say “no sooner than 2016.”

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The change dates back to 2005 when Congress passed the Real ID Act. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Real ID is a coordinated effort to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification.

“It’s going to prevent terrorists from getting by on our watchlists,” then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told CBS in 2008.  “And, it’s going to remove one of the tools con artists use to steal identity.”

But in 2009, Minnesota, along with several other states, passed its own law saying it wouldn’t comply with the Real ID Act. State lawmakers, whose vote was nearly unanimous, were concerned about privacy and cost.

“The goal was to leverage negotiations with the federal government around some of the pretty serious concerns that policy makers at the state level and across the country had,” said State Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. “These are conversations that needed to be had, but, unfortunately, those negotiations never occurred.”

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The Department of Homeland Security has pushed back and phased in the deadline for Real ID enforcement. Most federal buildings and properties now require a Real ID driver’s license. The aircraft boarding requirement will not be enforced before 2016, and the federal government will give states time to allow for compliance.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton said he supports compliance in Minnesota and will encourage legislators to address the issue.

Dibble says Real ID is on the radar of Minnesota legislators.

“To be sure, legislation will be drafted, introduced and we’ll have a the process of debate and discussion, but you can never predict a vote until it happens,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that this will actually come to pass and that folks will be denied passage on an airplane.”

If Minnesota lawmakers don’t change the law, the state could get an extension from the Department of Homeland Security.

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Without an extension, Minnesotans could use their passports or an enhanced driver’s license to board a plane. Enhanced driver’s licenses are available in Minnesota for an extra $15 and a more rigorous application process.

Heather Brown