Real IDs available in Minnesota Monday
ST. PAUL — This time, Minnesota's IT officials say, they got it right.
Minnesota will begin offering Real IDs on Monday, Oct. 1. It will be the biggest change to the state's driver and vehicle licensing programs since the unleashing of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System in 2017. That computer upgrade didn't go so well with ensuing computer glitches, long lines and delays.
The state has invested a lot of time, effort and training to make sure the introduction of Real ID goes more smoothly, officials say. The new Real IDs, which feature enhanced security, will be required to board domestic airline flights starting in October 2020.
"We have done everything in our power to make sure the launch is successful," said Johanna Clyborne, commissioner of Minnesota IT Services.
Amanda Coppin, a South St. Paul deputy registrar, said that with MNLARS, there were issues discovered that, because of timing, "couldn't be fixed before" it went online.
So far with Real ID, that has not been the case, Coppin said.
"I think most registrars are comfortable with the roll out," she said.
Lawmakers ask: Are we ready?
Next week's introduction of Real ID was questioned Wednesday by state lawmakers who are part of the MNLARS Steering Committee.
"What if things don't go as well as we hope Monday?" asked Rep. Dave Baker, a Republican from Willmar.
Clyborne responded that there are systems in place if things go awry.
"There is a rollback plan, which MNLARS did not have," she said.
She also added that the state's contractor on the project, Fast Enterprises, has "an entire army ready in case something goes wrong."
There are also state employees on standby across Minnesota who will be ready to assist with any problems deputy registrars have with the rollout, she said.
State Rep. Rick Hansen, a DFLer from South St. Paul, said he was cautiously hopeful about the rollout. He plans to visit a registrar's office on Sunday to preview the system. He said that is a good sign because he was not invited to do that before MNLARS launched.
Learning from MNLARS
Despite a decade of planning, the launch of the $93 million MNLARS project in July 2017 was immediately beset with problems. The computer system upgrade for vehicle titles and registrations led to confusion at Driver and Vehicle Service offices, long lines and ultimately vehicle owners were unable to obtain current licenses or titles they are legally required to have.
It was later learned another $43 million would be needed to fix the problems.
At least one senior manager was let go, and at least four probes were launched to determine what went wrong. One of those reports released earlier this week said there were "significant inaccuracies" in what Minnesotans were charged when registering their vehicles.
Turns out, a deal with a Real ID contractor is what could help Minnesota deal with the MNLARS issues.
Minnesota hired Colorado IT firm Fast Enterprises to ensure MNLARS can take on the requirements of Real ID. The firm is being paid $26 million.
MNIT is proposing taking $5.5 million of that to help pay for MNLARS improvements, which it says could stall without additional funding. The agency will request additional funding during next year's legislative session to cover the costs.
"I'm stuck between a rock and hard place," Clyborne told lawmakers. "Either I continue to provide relief ... or shut down the entire system."
State Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican from Hutchinson, said he was concerned about taking money from Real ID, a program already paid for.
MNIT officials told lawmakers the move would not affect Monday's rollout.
More work for staff
Driver and Vehicle Services staffers recovering from the glitches caused by MNLARS will soon find that processing Real ID applications will take longer, said Laura Laudenbach, a Stearns County deputy registrar.
More documents will be required to get the Real IDs, meaning staff will have more work to proof. In training, it took five minutes to process a standard driver's license and 15 minutes for a Real ID, she said.
The amount a license office makes for both types of ID is the same, $8.
State Sen. John Jasinski, a Republican from Faribault, said he is worried about the impact of the increased workload.
"We're going to put deputy registrars under," Jasinski said. "We have to fix this ... we cannot shift more work on them without compensation."