House lawmakers on Monday heard from Minnesotans exasperated by this summer’s rocky rollout of the state’s new computer system for managing motor vehicle licensing that has left licensing agents frustrated and seeking help from legislators.
Known as MNLARS, the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System made its debut on July 24 after roughly nine years and $90 million in planning and development. It replaced an existing 30-year-old computer system.
The upgraded system — which licensing agents across the state use to help drivers get tabs, titles and licenses — has had a rough start. Glitches have led to long lines, incorrectly calculated charges, and an inability for deputy registrar offices to process some transactions.
State officials, and deputy registrars and residents impacted by the transition, testified during a hearing before the House Transportation Finance Committee Monday on the effects of the changes.
“This is a big deal and there are a lot of very frustrated people,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), who chairs the committee.
The Office of the Legislative Auditor conducted a preliminary review of the system at the request of the Legislature and found that long delays in the MNLARS development process, in addition to vague timelines and communication, have battered confidence in the project.
Officials from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and its Driver and Vehicle Services division acknowledged the problems created by MNLARS’ difficult start and said the department is continuing to work toward full functionality.
The changeover is a “once-in-a-generation” undertaking, said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman, and the department “fully expected there would be issues.”
“We’ll do better,” she said. “We are going to continue to work diligently to make sure this system functions better in the future.”
Further upgrades to MNLARS are scheduled to be phased in over coming months. But the new system, as it stands, has meant increased paperwork and inconvenient workarounds, the committee heard from some of the state’s 175 deputy registrars — not to mention irritated customers.
Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) said state officials should be doing more to help its deputy registrars, who are privately-owned businesses that deliver government motor vehicle licensing services and have dealt with the brunt of the problems.
“Right now, we are starting our eighth week of this rollout and our systems are not getting fixed as fast as they should be, Baker said.
He added later: “We have a whole bunch of Minnesota residents who have told us we have a problem.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton to use mediation to resolve a funding dispute. In an opinion issued Friday, the court also ruled that Dayton’s use of the line-item veto to strip biennial funding for the Legislature was constitutional.
A Ramsey County judge on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto of legislative funding violated the state’s constitution.
House and Senate leadership OK a resolution to seek outside legal representation in an effort to restore funding for the Legislature that Gov. Mark Dayton line-item vetoed earlier this week.
Day three of the 2017 special session saw lawmakers pass final omnibus bills to be sent to Gov. Mark Dayton, with weary House members wrapping up their work at 2:42 a.m. Friday following a week of long days — and nights — at the State Capitol.
Lawmakers on conference committees must sort through competing bills before finalizing a product to send to the governor.
The budget process explained — and why it matters
$45 billion plan is about a 10 percent increase over current biennium
Governor urges lawmakers to pass a big capital investment bill during budget-setting year; House Speaker has expressed doubt over bonding this session
It was a day of selfies, swearings-in and standing ovations as the House opened the 2017-18 biennial session Tuesday.