We'll be the first to admit that there's something to the notion that among many Republicans, if President Obama is for something, they've got to be against it.
Nonetheless, Satursday's New Ulm Journal takes a cheap shot in its editorial "Thumb Down" in Get real on REAL ID:
THUMBS DOWN: Minnesota has had ten years to get on board with the REAL ID program. But for some reason, legislators practiced "head in the sand" lawmaking.
REAL ID is a federally mandated program that sets enhanced security standards for state-issued IDs like drivers licenses, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting IDs from states that don't comply. The deadline is approaching for states to have this done, after which the Minnesota drivers license won't be enough to let you board a domestic flight, enter some federal buildings or have access to a military base. You will need a passport to fly to Chicago, say or Atlanta.
Minnesota lawmakers, some of them no doubt feeling that whatever the Obama Administration says to do, they're against it, have refused to put the state in compliance. In 2009, in fact, the state passed a law forbidding state officials from planning for the ID or even talking to federal officials about it. . . .
Why is this a cheap shop? It's gratuitous because the 2009 legislation has its roots in Minnesota lawmakers' reaction to a Bush-era policy.
And that reaction wasn't partisan, but born from a concern for citizens' privacy, civil liberties, and such matters. In May 2008, Session Weekly staffer Brian Hogenson reported in At Issue: Crossing the partisan divide:
Other than the job description they share at the Capitol, there would appear to be next to nothing in common between a conservative independent from Greater Minnesota, an urban Democrat and a suburban Republican.
Could there be an issue that would land all three on the same page? A motion to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a bill prohibiting implementation of the federal REAL ID Act provided an answer to that question as Rep. Mark Olson (IR-Big Lake), Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) and Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) rose in support of the motion.
Pawlenty vetoed HF3807, which would have prohibited the public safety commissioner from taking any action to implement the Real ID Act.
In a compromise, Pawlenty signed an executive order prohibiting state compliance with REAL ID before June 1, 2009, without legislative approval.
“Throughout the debate over REAL ID, I’ve made it clear I share many of the concerns raised regarding federal funding, privacy, state control and other issues. Opponents have also raised important constitutional questions that should be considered,” Pawlenty said.
Issued by the governor, executive orders serve a variety of purposes, usually to help direct the operation of executive officers and agencies.
Pawlenty issued nine executive orders in 2008. Most of the orders throughout his terms have been used to trigger emergency powers during emergency situations or to fill appointed positions. In many states, including Minnesota, the governor may use an executive order to respond to federal programs and requirements such as the REAL ID Act. . . .
According to Olson, the intentions stated by Pawlenty’s executive order are very good, but REAL ID creates more security issues than it was designed to solve. “This is not a national security protection, it’s a national security problem. REAL ID is not the answer.”
Mariani said REAL ID is one of those issues where left and right come together because Americans want to ensure that private data and information remains private.
“There are very few things more important, I believe, as representatives of the people than to safeguard our constitutional civil liberties,” Mariani said.
He stressed the importance of the override, stating a preference for legislative action over an executive order. “An executive order issued today could be rescinded tomorrow. A piece of legislation enacted today remains enforced until you, as representatives of the people, debate and subsequently act and modify that legislation.”
According to Abeler, ignoring REAL ID or issuing executive orders to delay its implementation will not solve the problem. “This is the kind of law that, once the nose is under the tent, will not go away. This will be the gift that keeps on giving and you won’t like it.”
Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) successfully moved to table the override motion. His motion prevailed with an 86-46 vote.
They don't get much more veto proof than that, so the bill became law, but it didn't have anything to do with hating on either President Bush or Obama, given the bipartisan opposition to Real ID in the Minnesota legislature under both administrations.
Let me repeat: it wasn't Bush bashing. It wasn't Obama bashing.
Rather, it's been a discussion about the tensions between national security versus privacy and civil liberties, as Minnesota House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin pointed out in late November:
What is REAL ID?
REAL ID is a set of standards and procedures passed by Congress and enacted into law in 2005 that were intended to improve security of driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. A critical component of REAL ID compliance is the storage and retention of source documents (information you provide to get your license). The federal REAL ID Act mandates the retention rate of seven years for paper copies and ten years for source documents. REAL ID requires that states verify an applicant’s date of birth, Social Security number, and principal place of residence. Additionally, it verifies whether the applicant is lawfully present in the United States.
To meet these requirements, states may be required to verify the data contained in the presented identification source documents against several different federal databases. However, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have stated that the data is not being stored in a centralized data base as part of REAL ID nor is DHS “given the keys” to it. Rather, states remain in control of their data.
Why is Minnesota not in compliance?
Throughout the debate on the national and state level, questions were raised over privacy issues, civil liberties, data security, and how states would handle this unfunded mandate – since they would bear the financial burden of meeting the new standards.
Four years later, the legislature acted on these concerns. During the 2009 Legislative Session, the Minnesota House voted 133-0 and the Minnesota Senate voted 64-1 to prohibit the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from taking any action to implement or to plan for the implementation of REAL ID. Governor Pawlenty signed this bill into law.
However, the New Ulm Journal is right: the legislature has to fix this, as Minnesota is the only state left in noncompliance. If there's a special session, this item should be on the agenda. Period.
For more information, there's the DHS's Secure Driver's Licenses site and a fine (if dated at 2013) timeline about the run-up to the 2005 law and its aftermath in The History of Federal Requirements for State Issued Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards at the National Council of State Legislatures.
Perhaps the only folks we'd hold out for ridicule are those activists we saw beginning in 2008 wanting immigrants and refugees to have secure IDs, but resisting Real ID for "real" Americans. We don't recall any of them being elected to the Minnesota legislature (possible, perhaps), but the ironic dilemma built into that one is rather self evident.
Photo: Gail Sample has an enhanced Drivers License, which is currently available in Minnesota for those with the right documents and a $15 extra charge.
If you appreciate Bluestem Prairie, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen P.O. Box 108, Maynard MN 56260) or use the paypal button below:
Email subscribers can contribute via this link to paypal; use email sally.jo.sorensen at gmail.com as recipient.