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Viewpoint: With REAL ID extension granted, next fix must be MNLARS

Tony Jurgens

We received some good news recently when the federal government granted Minnesota a REAL ID extension until October 2018.

Last session, we approved a new law that brought Minnesota into full compliance with the federal REAL ID act, which was a federal law passed in 2005. Its goal was to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to obtain fake identification cards by setting standards that states must meet for their driver's licenses.

Minnesota's state-issued identification cards needed to meet federal standards by 2018. By making REAL ID a simple opt-in program for those who wish to use their driver's license to board airplanes and enter federal facilities including military bases, while retaining an option to obtain an ID under the current system for those who chose to do so, this law is a compromise that works for everyone. The federal extension means Minnesotans will have more time to obtain new identification if they choose, and gives the state more time to handle the implementation.

Considering the state is struggling mightily with the program that will soon handle REAL ID, we can be even more thankful with the federal action.

Despite nine years of preparation and $90 million in expenses, Minnesota's new licensing and registration system, MNLARS, has not been meeting the needs of Minnesota's drivers and deputy registrars.

Specifically, MNLARS is the new computer program that processes titles, tabs and license plates in Minnesota. It was developed in order to replace our state's antiquated licensing program, and went online July 24.

It has been overwhelmed with problems since. Car titles have taken months to process, if they've been processed at all. Residents have been forced to make multiple trips in order to obtain a license plate or tab, and in some cases have been turned away completely.

All of this has created countless headaches to the deputy registrars who are simply trying to keep people legally on the road.

Then add in the fact that sometime next year, MNLARS is also expected to begin issuing drivers' licenses — including those with REAL ID — and you can see why people are getting nervous.

The reality is, we're months into this new program and the glitches that continue to plague MNLARS are causing serious problems across the state. Approving REAL ID was a top priority during the 2017 session, and now it appears ensuring MNLARS can meet the new REAL ID identification demand will be hotly debated in 2018.

If you are having problems, know that lawmakers understand your frustration. But please, don't blame the deputy registrars; this is a state issue.

I would also encourage registrars and their customers to share your experience on the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System Comment Page that is found on the Minnesota House's website, and we will relay your concerns to Driver and Vehicle Services. Visit www.house.leg.state.mn.us/DMV/Comment and share your story.

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