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Legislation could throw lifeline to registrars left reeling by MNLARS

Anoka County Deputy Registrar Paula Anderson testifies in favor of HF2835, sponsored by Rep. Dave Baker, right, that would provide reimbursement to deputy registrars for expenses due to problems with the rollout of the MNLARS system. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Deputy registrars across Minnesota could be reimbursed for losses suffered as a result of the state’s catastrophic rollout of its new motor vehicle license and registration system.

The system, known as MNLARS, has been a malfunctioning mess since it rolled out last July and has left state officials scrambling to fix it. That has caused registrars to lose around $25 million, an industry spokesperson told the House Transportation Finance Committee Tuesday.

HF2835, sponsored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), would appropriate $9 million from a Driver and Vehicle Services special operating account to provide reimbursement aid to deputy registrars.

OK’d by the committee, the bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee, likely its last stop before the House Floor. There is no Senate companion.

Baker says the bill would provide much-needed help to the local offices that work as agents of the state to issue things like license tabs and title transfers to motor vehicle owners.

“The folks that took the most damage, the most bullets, the most scarring, [were] deputy registrars,” Baker said.

Registrars who testified Tuesday told lawmakers their revenues from transactions have plummeted — and costs have skyrocketed — thanks to the hours of overtime and extra efforts required due to the glitch-ridden and registration system.

“If we don’t get immediate relief we’re going to lose a lot of money,” said Paula Anderson, the Anoka County registrar.

The bill would establish a formula for disbursing aid based on transactions, exclude transactions and offices operated by Driver and Vehicle Services, and direct Minnesota Management and Budget to seek to distribute the funding within 30 days of the legislation’s effective date.

The formula would distribute 50 percent of funds based on each registrar’s share of total transactions from Aug. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018, and 50 percent of funds based on each deputy registrar’s proportional share of transactions during fiscal years 2015-2017.

DFL members expressed support for reimbursing the registrars hit hard by MNLARS’ problems, but said they disagreed with the source of the funds. Another bill already sent to the House Floor proposes to use DVS special revenue funds for $10 million in emergency appropriations for further costs associated with MNLARS.

“I do agree with the intent of the bill — trying to make registrars partially whole,” said Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park). “But I have some concerns with passing a fiscal bill without knowing” the impact on the fund.

As for the impact on deputy registrars, supporters of the bill said it would be “a lifeline” to businesses sent reeling by the troubled computer system.

“It is absolutely critical for these offices who are struggling,” said Jim Hirst, representing the Minnesota Deputy Registrars Association. 

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