Lawmakers criticize lengthy waits at OMV locations
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State lawmakers said Thursday they're getting hit with complaints about wait times at Office of Motor Vehicles locations around Louisiana, and they're asking for more details about the cause.
Members of the Legislature's joint budget committee want leaders of the agency to return at an upcoming meeting to explain why waits have spiked when people are getting driver's licenses or dealing with vehicle titles and registrations.
A report issued earlier this year by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office said wait times have shot up to as much as an hour and a half in some OMV locations as Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration dropped staffing levels amid continuing budget cuts.
Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, said he waited nearly four hours for service at his local motor vehicles office.
"What is the problem?" Murray asked Staci Hoyt, OMV deputy assistant secretary, at the meeting on an unrelated budget matter.
Hoyt said she'd have to look at the day Murray referenced to determine the problem, but Murray said people told him they faced similar wait times on other days.
Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, said he's gotten repeated phone calls about lengthy delays in his rural district.
"It's causing us a lot of problems," he said.
Hoyt said the agency moves staff around to alleviate lengthy waits at individual locations.
But lawmakers said they want more information.
After the meeting, OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell said people can do much of their business online to avoid the waits.
He also noted that his agency has turned to a privatization program to reduce the time in line, allowing 50 outside contractors, known as public tag agents, to handle driver's license renewals for up to an extra $18 fee.
"I don't want people to have to wait any longer than absolutely necessary. I'd love to have it always be 30 minutes or less, but the reality is that's not always going to happen," Campbell said.
A January report from the fiscal office said that as OMV staff dropped 23 percent, wait times grew from as little as 8 to 16 minutes in 2009 to more than an hour by 2013.
Campbell said the wait times fluctuate, depending on day and time. For example, he said the wait time for a driver's license renewal Thursday afternoon in one Baton Rouge office was 19 minutes.