No Real ID progress: Last week’s only Real ID conference committee meeting came and went without much progress.
However, an amendment by Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, was discussed at the April 24 hearing that would allow Minnesotans to keep their current driver’s license expiration dates if Real ID does get approved.
Currently, regular Class D Minnesota driver’s licenses expire every four years on cardholders’ birthdays. Torkelson’s plan would allow Minnesotans to apply for a Real ID without altering their expiration schedule.
Torkelson used his own Class D driver’s license, which expires in 2019, as an example of how his plan would work. If Real IDs became available in 2018, Torkelson said, he could immediately apply for one that would expires after five years — keeping him on his current expiration schedule. For that convenience, he said, he would pay a $2 fee.
Others whose Class D licenses are slated to expire in subsequent years could get Real IDs that expire up to seven years later, he said.
“If my expiration date was in 2020 and I came in in 2018, I would get a six-year license and I would pay a $4 extension fee,” Torkelson said. “If my expiration date was 2021, I would get a seven-year license and I would pay a $6 fee to get that.”
Fiscal analyst Andrew Lee said the plan could generate roughly $6.7 million in new revenue in fiscal 2019 and $8.8 million in 2020. “That would largely keep the Driver Services Fund whole in terms of having enough revenue to implement Real ID and do the other things that the Legislature is proposing,” he said.
Despite that innovation, the committee moved no closer to reconciling the yawning difference between the House and Senate versions of the Real ID bill.
The House bill includes a ban on noncompliant driver’s licenses and ID cards for undocumented immigrants. The Senate is silent on that issue. Both bar undocumented immigrants from receiving federally compliant Real IDs, as required by federal law.
Gov. Mark Dayton was asked Wednesday whether he worries about legislators’ lack of quick progress on Real ID. He said he would become concerned only if lawmakers fail to pass the bill by session’s end on May 22.
Dayton repeated his call for the House to delete its undocumented immigrant provision, something House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has thus far declined to do. The language is not needed, Dayton said, because contrary to Republican legislators’ fears, neither he nor his Public Safety department has legal authority to issue licenses to immigrants at their own behest.
“All these other areas that are incidental to it and not related to Real ID should be set aside for now to get it done,” Dayton said.
If a Real ID bill fails to pass, Minnesotans without enhanced driver’s licenses or passports could be barred from commercial flights and federal installations beginning on Jan. 22, 2018.
Geopolitical discrimination: The Minnesota Senate waded into geopolitics on April 24, passing a bill to bar state government from contracting with vendors that discriminate against Israel.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, passed by a lopsided 57-8 vote.
Already passed 98-28 by the House in February, the bill also bars state agencies from contracting with vendors who discriminate against individuals or business entities that do business with Israel.
Limmer called the legislation a response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which he called “sinister” and an “attempt to cripple Israel economically.”
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, co-sponsored the bill. He quoted one of the movement’s co-founders, Omar Barghouti, who reportedly has stated that Jews are “not a people” and whose movement reputedly opposes a Jewish state in Palestine.
“The BDS movement is not a mere protest movement against certain policies of the Israeli government.” Latz said. “The BDS movement’s goal is to eliminate the state of Israel.”
The bill got some pushback from liberal Democrats who labeled it litmus-test legislation with possible free-speech implications but little practical impact. “I think it is more of a political statement,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Minneapolis. “It is trying to make a point, it’s symbolic.”
Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, called the bill “a litmus test for one’s support of Israel,” which uses the power of state government to tell Minnesotans with whom to associate.
“It’s not our role to do that,” she said. “Our role is to protect one’s right to free expression, even if you don’t agree with that expression.”
Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth, supported the bill because, he said, Israel is a strong trading partner. He said that in calendar year 2016, trade between Minnesota and Israel was valued at $183 million.
“It was a rare moment of unity,” he said. “I hope we would have that same unity today.” With that, the bill easily passed. The governor had yet to act on it as of late Thursday.
Veto threat: Gov. Mark Dayton pledged to veto a House bill passed last week to require Minnesota’s abortion clinics to be licensed and inspected.
The bill authored by Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, would require abortion facilities to obtain licenses from the state Health Department to operate. They would also face inspection every two years without prior notice and pay a biennial licensing fee of $365.
Advocates said the bill is needed to protect women. They cited the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortion clinic operator who was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for killing a live baby after a botched abortion. A grand jury report on that case cited “an egregious lapse in regulatory oversight,” according to the Washington Post.
“We can’t just say that this will never happen in the state of Minnesota,” said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. “We don’t know that.”
“If we pass this legislation, that won’t happen in Minnesota,” Kiel said.
Opponents accused Republicans of using patient safety as a shield to curb legal access to abortion. They cited part of the bill that grants Minnesota’s health commissioner broad authority to suspend or revoke licenses for conduct “detrimental to the welfare of the patient.”
“In committee and on this floor we have heard people say that abortion itself is detrimental to a woman,” said Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. “If a commissioner is appointed who shares that political judgment, [he or she] could apply this standard by itself and close clinics.”
After the smoke cleared, the bill passed 79-53. A separate piece of legislation that would deny state funding for abortions from state-sponsored health programs had passed earlier the same day, 77-54.
Neither bill has support from the governor. Dayton said Wednesday he would veto both bills should they get to his desk. “That is just pandering to the base,” Dayton said. “Let’s leave things as they are.”