Urgent action needed for license and registration system

Published 7:37 am Tuesday, March 6, 2018

By Jeanne Poppe

State Representative, District 27B

“Houston, we have a problem.”  There are systems and processes in many aspects of our lives. When they run smoothly we take them for granted; when they fail, a “red alert” can be triggered. Over the past many months, car and truck drivers and vehicle owners, auto dealers and deputy registrars around the state have been negatively impacted by the delays and problems with the new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). The new product is intended to build out system features that will support a modernized delivery method for Driver and Vehicle Services in the future.  MNLARS was launched in July 2017 to replace a 30 year old system.

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The system has experienced significant issues since its rollout last summer. These issues have already inconvenienced many Minnesotans and, if they aren’t addressed, could cause the system to buckle under the large volumes of customer service demand during the rollout of REAL ID later this fall.

Much has happened in the past three months to address the problems, including contracting with highly sought after computer technologists who can navigate the system and repair the glitches. As of March 1, 2018, these contracted workers have been given a 30-day end of contract notification because there isn’t money available to continue to fund them. To address this immediate need, Gov. Mark Dayton requested releasing funds from the Vehicle Services and Driver Services funds in the amount of $10 million. Currently, there is a $5.73 million balance in Vehicle Services Fund (including reserves) and a $14.31 million balance including reserves in the Driver Services Fund. These funds can only be released (spent) with legislative approval.  March 1 has come and gone without legislative approval granting this immediate request.

There is a larger request (additional $33 million) to fully support the project completion. If funding is not provided, high-priority defects would not be fully resolved until 2020. Additionally, unaddressed defects will worsen over time and the system will become more difficult to use. In October, MNLARS will again be serving a high volume of Minnesotans requiring REAL ID-compliant identification. Our state has already received multiple deferments, but the October deadline is firm.

The MNLARS project is already over budget and in the coming months, the Legislature must look into the reasons for its shortcomings. However, the urgency of losing highly skilled, productive contractors at this point in the resolution phase requires an urgent response. Minnesotans deserve a licensing system that works and they deserve a legislature willing to solve problems.

You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn.