In California, the birthplace of the high-tech industry, lawmakers want to know why the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles can’t manage to put a reliable computer system in place.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) called for an audit of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in 2018, after many constituents contacted him about waiting in lines for six to eight hours, even with an appointment.
Patterson nearly had enough votes of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which approves agency audits, but at the direction of California Gov. Jerry Brown, the Committee rejected the audit. Instead, Patterson said Gov. Brown assured Democrat lawmakers that he would fix the DMV’s problems.
Ironically, Gov. Brown, along with current and former lawmakers, enjoys special concierge DMV services at their own private DMV. The tiny, unmarked DMV office is buried deep inside of the Legislative Office Building across the street from the Capitol, devoted to serving the Legislature and its staff. And it is not open to the public.
At a hearing last fall, Assemblyman Patterson asked DMV Director Jean Shiomoto how often DMV computer systems crash. She said she didn’t know, but offered to get back to him the next day. Patterson is still waiting, and Jean Shiomoto just retired.
More recently, upon learning that over two million Real ID cards could be ruled invalid by the Department of Homeland Security due to the DMV’s failure to meet a federal address verification requirement, Patterson will be calling for California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom to support an audit of the DMV.
“The DMV has known for a month that millions of Real ID’s they’ve been doling out are potentially invalid,” Patterson said in an interview with California Globe. “This is a monumental failure that will affect millions of Californians.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID Act established minimum-security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The Act prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.
California has had more than 13 years to implement a Real ID, as most other states already have accomplished. The California DMV asked for extension after extension — for 13 years. Then, they abruptly started issuing the Real ID in January 2018 –even though DHS had not yet approved California’s version.
I contacted DHS and asked if the approval has not been granted because California issues California Drivers Licenses to illegal aliens under Assembly Bill 60, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The other issue I addressed with DHS is California’s “Gender Recognition Act,” which now allows people to change gender on their California Drivers License and birth certificates.
The Department of Homeland Security replied that they “are in the process of reviewing California’s compliance certification and cannot discuss either internal or external deliberations at this time.”
Assemblyman Patterson said Californians are likely facing a disaster where all two million people who already have the Real ID will have to go back to the DMV and suffer through interminable lines again.
“DHS is demanding that California follow the same requirements as every other state and get two forms of address verification for Real ID,” Patterson said. “The fact the DMV is unwilling or unable to comply with this request is outrageous and has put the freedom to fly in jeopardy for millions of California residents.”
Patterson said after many conversations and meetings with DMV representatives, it became evident to him that the California DMV “is managed horribly.”
“Everything the DMV touches it messes up, so why do we want them also taking on voter registration, when they can’t even register your car properly?” Patterson said.
Patterson said his goal is to get the audit done, and then bring in technology experts, and experienced executives who have run 21st Century businesses. “If Amazon can deliver a Christmas present the next day, the DMV can as well,” Patterson said.
Assemblyman Patterson said he will call again for an audit in early January. “I hope the next governor and Legislature can see this should be bi-partisan. I think this is an opportunity with a new governor to reimagine the California DMV.”
Patterson said there are three points to his overall plan:
- Apply the latest technology and experienced executives to re-engineer and reimagine the DMV.
- The DMV must be retooled and retrained to recognize that the people of California are customers and clients of the DMV. “Attitude at the highest levels is an overarching hubris,” Patterson said. “They blame the people for coming in ‘unprepared,’ instead of recognizing that it’s their job to help the people.”
- “The DMV doesn’t have to be a mistake-prone bureaucracy,” Patterson said. “AAA has shown us how it can be done right.” Patterson said the goal should be to not burden anyone to have to go to an office and stand in line.
Patterson said that although he did not get an audit approved last year, just highlighting the problems helped. Truckers who had been waiting up to eight weeks just to get an appointment for renewals or new class-A drivers licenses, finally reported to him that the wait times were cut down to two weeks.
“Insiders say the DMV makes excuses, but the real problem is dinosaur technology,” Patterson said. “Insiders tell me they spend most of their time in work-arounds the old, outdated computer system.”
Patterson’s office said they recently learned from DMV officials that the REAL ID cards already issued by the California DMV are still valid. “Those who got their REAL IDs using just one residency document will need to provide a second document when their driver license or identification card comes up for renewal in five years. The DMV is working to let those people submit their residency document online or by mail.”
“Modern bureaucracy is really just checking boxes,” Patterson said. “Competition requires more… get it done accurately, with precision, and with customer service.”
“There are phenomenal experts who can make the DMV a technological marvel,” Patterson added. “I think we should aim to make the California DMV as easy, welcoming and friendly as Amazon… and if they mess up your order, they fix it fast.”