"Fix DMV" reforms approved by State Senate
(Trenton) - The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted on Thursday to adopt comprehensive reforms that will allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to implement initiatives to address lapses in security and improve customer service.
The "Fix DMV" bill, officially known as the Motor Vehicle Security and Customer Service Act, was introduced to the Senate last November. The bill now moves from the Budget and Appropriations Committee to a House vote on Jan. 23. The bill is expected to be adopted and signed into law by Gov. James E. McGreevey. The Assembly approved the bill a couple of months ago.
"We are extremely pleased and relieved by the Senates actions," said Acting Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere. “Today’s vote brings us a step closer to making DMV more secure and customer-friendly.”
"We can now proceed with our plans to reverse more than a decade of neglect at DMV,” said DMV Director Diane Legreide. “Eliminating the distressing lapses in security and improving the customer service at our agencies will not happen overnight. However, we are very confident that the legislation provides us with a comprehensive, detailed plan for improvement."
The legislation will increase the annual motor vehicle registration fees by $7 to fund the reform measures. The DMV Commission will not have the authority to raise future DMV fees or state bonding.
The new legislation also requires background checks for all new motor vehicle agents who also must meet specific educational and experience qualifications.
The bill was amended after weeks of negotiating with members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Legreide said she is eager to replace DMVs 20-year-old computer system, which inhibits employees from working in an efficient and effective manner. The legislation will also provide DMV with the ability to improve its identification verification process of motorists, especially when the Digitized Driver License system is implemented this summer.
The legislation will allow DMV to establish a greater police presence and install new security cameras, alarms and locks in every agency to thwart corruption and fraud.
In the past six months, nearly 90 people including 14 DMV employees - have been arrested for using fraudulent documents to obtain New Jersey driver’s licenses at DMV agencies.
DMV has already begun its customer service initiatives, including the first phase of DMV-mandated customer service training and the issuance of employee nametags.
"Customer service training and document fraud training for DMV employees will be ongoing and continuous," Legreide said.
Today's actions will allow DMV to implement plans to open agencies on Saturdays, create a new telephone information center and expand online services.
"Fixing DMV was never a political issue. Its a people issue, Legreide said. We will soon provide our employees with the tools to better serve the people of this state. Now, the real work begins."