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.

After issuing 70 executive orders in 2003, mainly to fill appointments, Pawlenty issued an average of 17 executive orders annually from 2004-2007.

What is REAL ID?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, REAL ID is a nationwide effort intended to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud and improve the reliability and accuracy of identification documents that state governments issue.

The 9/11 Commission made a recommendation that the U.S. improve its system for issuing secure identification documents.

“At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists,” according to a commission report.

The department now grants extensions for state compliance through Dec. 31, 2009. States that have been granted an extension will be required to issue compliant licenses and identification cards no later than Jan. 1, 2010, with all licenses and identification cards held by individuals required to be compliant by May 10, 2013.

The REAL ID Act requires that a REAL ID driver’s license be used for “official purposes,” including accessing a federal facility, boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft and entering nuclear power plants.

As the clock ticked toward the constitutional adjournment, Olson introduced a motion to override the governor’s veto of the bill.

“Why should we ever take and put everybody’s data on one little chip in one card and allow for dissemination nationwide with other states? Once it’s out of our hands, we have no control,” he said.

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.