Poway News Chieftain: DMV in need of major repairs

By Sen. Brian Jones

As a parting gift to Gov. Gavin Newsom, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown asked the California Department of Finance, Office of State Audits and Evaluations to “Assess the efficiency and effectiveness of Department of Motor Vehicles’ current operations and make recommendations to improve its practices and enhance the field office customer experience.”

In addition, he asked to for an evaluation of “DMV’s information technology (IT) system and its impact on the field office customer experience.”

The results of that internal audit: The DMV is a hot mess.

The DMV plays too integral a role in our lives to let it fail. We require our state issued identifications to drive, board a plane, and pay for goods. Currently we need it to issue the new, federally-mandated Real IDs.

Our state’s executive management system is so screwed up, that an agency like the state Department of Finance, whose mission “is to serve as the governor’s chief fiscal policy advisor and to promote long‑term economic sustainability and responsible resource allocation,” has to be ordered by the state Legislature and governor to figure out why the DMV is not working.

The Real ID program came about in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001. The federal government established new minimum security standards for all state-issued identifications, and the new ID would be required for boarding flights or accessing federal facilities. This was 14 years ago, in 2005.

California’s DMV had more than a decade to prepare for implementing the new program. It began issuing Real IDs in January 2018, and this is when all the DMV’s internal problems began to surface.

By the summer of 2018, Californians needing IDs, licenses or registrations were enduring nine-hour and longer wait times. Amid much public outcry, Republican legislators called for a comprehensive audit of the DMV, but it was killed by the Democrats.

Instead, after more public outcry, Brown finally agreed to a more-limited-in-scope internal audit. It recently has been released and finds “significant deficiencies” with the DMV.

For instance, the audit found that the DMV initially was very proactive in implementing the Real ID Act when Congress passed it in 2005. The DMV established a Real ID unit, had an internal steering committee operating, and was providing the state Legislature with quarterly reports. All those efforts ceased in 2009.

Tragically, Brown and Democratic legislators during this same time also tasked the DMV with having to automatically register virtually everyone to vote who renewed or applied for a driver’s license. Talk about your mission creep.

The internal audit also found, “Reports submitted in June 2010, September 2010, and December 2010 were identical, and reports submitted in 2011 repeated pending legislation from previous reports. None of the 2010 or 2011 quarterly reports submitted provided updates on how DMV planned to implement the Real ID Act or potential challenges. The last report was submitted in September 2011.”

Are we to believe that for all this time the governor and oversight committees in the state Legislature were just clueless?

As your elected representative, I believe the DMV’s problems are more about bureaucracies becoming ungovernable due to a lack of Democrat-controlled legislative oversight and mismanagement by the executive branch. I see the DMV as the canary in the state’s coal mine.

This has to stop. As I mentioned above, the California DMV plays too vital a role for us to allow it to fail.

Californians must demand more from their DMV, more from their governor and more from Democratic legislative leadership.

We spend so much for the government we have – more than we really can afford – yet we are willing to accept inefficiency and ineffectiveness in so critical an agency? No, we are not.

My message to Gov. Newsom is simple: Fix the DMV; fix it now. Take the auditors’ recommendations, twist some arms in the Legislature, and get the DMV back on track and working for the people of California.

I welcome your thoughts on this issue, and you can contact me by sending an email to senator.jones@sen.ca.gov.

This op-ed was originally published in Poway News Chieftain on Apr. 18, 2019: