Things are starting to pick up in St. Paul, where the 2016 session is set to begin March 8. That is a bit later than usual due to the massive Capitol renovation that is taking place.
Until then, bills are taking shape and legislative working groups are meeting to give us a head start once the session begins. Three joint House-Senate panels have been formed to discuss three particular subjects in response to suggestions by the governor. Those areas are REAL ID, unemployment on the Iron Range and economic disparities.
Many questions remain on all three subjects, although we recently received helpful information from the federal government regarding the timeline for implementation of new ID standards. The Department of Homeland Security announced that REAL ID enforcement to board an airplane will take effect Jan. 22, 2018 at the earliest.
That is good news for travelers and it diminishes the importance of calling a special session to address this before March. The Legislature will continue working on solutions that allow Minnesota to meet new federal guidelines while also protecting citizens' private data. The important thing is that we stay on task in conducting due diligence on this issue so we can put an appropriate plan in place.
It remains to be seen if the governor will call a special session to address Iron Range unemployment, economic disparities or any other subject. The Iron Range has suffered a series of layoffs among steelworkers and the 26-week period for receiving unemployment is running out for many people in that region. There are many layers to this issue, including external forces reaching as far as overseas.
Please stay in touch as these and other issues play out in our state.