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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Brian Johnson (R)

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Legislative Update

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I have been hearing from a number of constituents lately concerned about Syrian refugees and REAL ID. I thought I would share some more information with you regarding both situations.

Keeping Minnesota Safe

Earlier this week, House Speaker Kurt Daudt sent a letter to Governor Dayton, calling on him to urge our president to suspend the acceptance of any new Syrian refugees until the federal government completes a full review of its screening process. I agree with that sentiment and believe Minnesotans deserve to know that our federal government has a policy in place to protect our citizens from those who wish to enter our country and do us harm. As to date, both President Obama and Governor Dayton have explained that they are not in favor of temporarily halting the refugee program to ensure that we are protecting American citizens.

As far as what can actually be done on the state level, there is little that we have control over. The Refugee Act of 1980 and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hines v. Davidowitz gave the federal government broad authority in this matter while also limiting the ability of states to accept or reject refugees. However, as more states band together and demand these safety protocols, I am hopeful it will put more pressure on our federal government and the Department of Homeland Security to act.

One important thing we did at the state level this year was pass a new law that works to stop the radicalization efforts of ISIS in Minnesota. The initiatives provides grants to local governments with identified populations who are at-risk for recruitment in an effort to combat recruitment by terrorist organizations. 

I will continue to make the safety of Minnesotans a top legislative priority.

Real ID

Many people have been sending me questions and concerns regarding Minnesota's non-compliance with the federal REAL ID law, especially as it pertains to flying. Passed in 2005 by Congress, REAL ID requires state drivers' licenses to meet certain standards for those wishing to use that identification as a means to board commercial flights. In 2009, Minnesota prohibited compliance to REAL ID over concerns regarding data privacy and is one of the few states not in compliance, or in the process of complying with the law. Minnesota is currently prohibited from receiving an extension to meet the remaining requirements because of that law which passed the legislature with only one no vote in the Senate.

While REAL ID is already being enforced to enter federal facilities and other restricted sites, the final implementation requiring citizens to have a REAL ID license in order to fly is set to go into effect no sooner than January 1 of next year. The Department of Homeland Security will provide Minnesota and other states with 120 days' notice.

The current basic Minnesota drivers' license does not meet REAL ID requirements, but people do have the option for an extra $15 of getting an enhanced license that will comply with federal law. Should a change to state law not happen before full implementation of REAL ID, both enhanced drivers' licenses and passports will be acceptable forms of identification to fly within the United States.

Legislators and state leaders have been working on this issue during the interim, and it is likely to be addressed in the upcoming legislative session. Many questions still remain surrounding data privacy concerns for individuals as well as the long-term retention of data, and I would expect those to be debated when the issue comes through committees and onto the House Floor.

I will keep you updated on this situation when more information is available. In the meantime, I welcome any questions, concerns or ideas you may have. You can also get more information on the Department of Homeland Security's website.

As always, if I can assist you on a matter of state government, I welcome you to contact my office.

Have a wonderful week.