New licensing system issues aired at hearings

ST. PAUL — Some drivers and vehicle owners are getting great deals on vehicle tabs after being stopped for expired tabs these days, thanks to “bugs” in the new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) project.

The multi-year initiative of Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) was designed to replace the core functionality of DVS operations. It was advertised as being an efficient, secure, web-based system for driver’s license, identification card and vehicle registration and ownership transactions that began operation July 24.

At a House Subcommittee on Technology and Responsive Government hearing in Willmar Monday, a Kandiyohi County license supervisor said a man paid only $51 to renew his license tabs on a 2015 Chevy Silverado. The transaction should have cost him several hundred dollars but the MNLARS system incorrectly showed he owed $51 to renew vehicle tabs.

The license supervisor said her staff called DVS headquarters in St. Paul because the MNLARS system didn’t calculate the fee right but were told to tell the man it was his lucky day.

Brown County License Bureau Registrar and Minnesota Deputy Registrar’s Association President Suzanne Jensen urged vehicle owners to hold off on transferring specialized license plates from one vehicle to another now due to MNLARS processing delays.

“We realize the public is caught in the middle. We’re doing the best we can in our office,” Jensen said. “We noticed the MNLARS system was running very slowly Tuesday. It may be because some improvements are being made.”

Brown County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jason Seidl said his officers realize the license tabs backlog and don’t give tickets to drivers with expired tabs if they have the required renewal data in hand.

Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association President Scott Lambert said MNLARS was not ready when the DPS put it online.

“They didn’t test it or run a pilot, even though we suggested they do that,” Lambert said. “It’s been a calamity, costing $90 million dollars and being eight years late. I can’t imagine what they spent the money on. Any technology company I deal with said they can’t fathom what they are doing.”

Lambert said a lengthy Sept. 11 Minnesota House hearing in St. Paul included compelling testimony of many of the MNLARS problems.

Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman testified MNLARS is a better system than the one it replaced.

“Functionality will continue to be released in stages,” Dohman said. “We’ll do all we can to be responsive to partners. This is a modern, far more innovative system to support driving and vehicle services into the future. Technology changes are inherently disruptive.”

Paul Meekin, DPS and Corrections Chief Business Technology Officer, said MNLARS will automate business functions to have more uniformity, security and integrity.

“The system by design, does not have all functionality at the launch. It has phased releases,” Meekin testified. “We’re continually working to make the system more secure for motor vehicles and driver services. Everything we have going on is a balance between motor vehicles and REAL ID.”

“We aren’t making this up. These are real issues,” Lambert said. “People are not getting their plates, titles and leases. I sure hope this gets fixed soon.”

The Minnesota House of Representatives has a Minnesota Licensing and Registration System Comment Page designed for registrars and DMV customers who have encountered problems. The form asks for specific input, accepting up to 2,500 comment characters per submission. For those with longer messages, multiple submissions can be made.

For more information, visit http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/DMV/Comment

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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