Minnesota "Smart card" Defeated in 1997

Development may occur under Tradepoint Minnesota

The Office of Technology (OT) was passed into law but the smart card called "MNCard" that OT intended to develop and implement was defeated. Had it passed into law, state employees would have been issued the card in the first year and all citizens were to receive the card within three years. Initial versions of the bill mandated state employee participation but the bill was changed to voluntary involvement after authors and committees heard opposition to the mandate.

The MNCard was to be state-issued by a state-approved vendor which would hold the individually-identifiable embedded information on databanks. Its computer chip would be able to include such health related information as your health insurance information, your medical records, your social security number, and your unique patient identifier number. In addition, calling card and banking features, library access, driver's license, and state park permits could be placed on the card. State employee cards would also have parking ramp, vending machine, work station safety, and building entrance features. All this information was to be housed in the databank of a state-approved vendor.

Opponents claimed that the card was a privacy infringement, violated the Fourth Amendment, and would allow state officials to freeze the use of all features on the card to penalize a citizen with or without substantiated cause. They also worried that participation would no longer be voluntary after the card was instituted. As one OT staff member stated,

"This is a voluntary project expected to go to a non-voluntary project at some point...There needs to be time to let the paranoia subside before you get a chance to use it." (4/8/97 Government Operations House Committee).

As chief Senate author of the Governor's Office of Technology bill and co-author of the MNCard bill, Sen. Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) attempted to amend funding for the MNCard into the Government Operations Funding Bill after it failed in the House Government Operations bill. However, because of expected expense to taxpayers, the amendment was defeated.

An interesting conversation occurred in the House Government Operations Finance Committee. After Rep. Rukavina (D-Virginia) stated that even the Republican members of the Government Operations Finance committee opposed funding the card, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D-Mpls.), author of the bill, asked, "What do you intend to do with MNCard?" Rep. Rukavina replied, "Kill it!" Rep. Kahn responded, "I intend to come back at some point with some resurrection of MNCard."

She may not have to. During a late-in-the-session presentation on Tradepoint Minnesota, the new United Nations/OT operation, a question was raised about smartcard development and the defeat of the MNCard. The presenter made it clear that the card would most likely be developed through Minnesota Tradepoint, which will be funded by state, United Nation, and World Bank dollars.

According to Dr. Don Riley, Chief Information Officer of the University of Minnesota, and head of the United Nations Trade Points initiative, Tradepoint Minnesota intends to use this increased international trade transaction capability for "telemedicine[and] health care provision." The MNCard may be a part of the overall marketing strategy and implementation.

Since final authority over Tradepoint Minnesota activities lies in the hands of the United Nations, the prospects for MNCard development are unknown.

Used with permission.