Despite calls to hold the DMV accountable for hours-long wait times, a California legislative committee declined to approve an audit of the agency at Wednesday (Aug. 8) hearing.
Although none of the 13 assembly members and senators on the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit voted no, not enough voted yes to order the audit.
DMV Under Fire
The vote came one day after another legislative committee questioned Department of Motor Vehicles Director Jean Shiomoto about the public outrage over long wait times and difficulty booking appointments.
Shiomoto told lawmakers that wait times began to spike several months ago as Californians update their licenses to meet new federal security standards known as Real ID.
The agency underestimated the time needed to explain the new requirements to customers and ensure they have necessary documents, Shiomoto said.
Shiomoto asked lawmakers Tuesday for additional money to hire more employees, possibly as much as $26 million, on top of the millions in additional funding the agency has received to fulfill Read ID demands.
The federal law was enacted in 2005 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and requires new ID cards to carry special markings.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, airport security checkpoints won’t accept non-compliant cards. Californians must apply for new cards in person at DMV offices.
The department has already hired hundreds of additional employees to handle increased demand. The agency is also encouraging people to complete some paperwork before arriving in person and is piloting text message alerts for waiting customers.
See the golden bear with a star shown on this facsimile of California’s Real ID driver’s license? That’s how you know it’s compliant with federal law. (DMV Photo)
Patterson, Cox Upset
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) voiced loudly his displeasure about the long wait times and his perceived mismanagement of the DMV. He vented his frustrations after the vote.
“The members of this committee who voted against this audit request have just sentenced California drivers to interminable wait times. The people of this state and the DMV employees have been loud and clear about the absolute failure of this department to do their job,” Paterson said in a statement.
John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor, expressed similar sentiments.
“This is a glaring example of the Sacramento political class bending over backwards to protect a failing system and snubbing Californians that have long been forgotten,” Cox said. “Every hour in line at the DMV is time away from a job or family. Not auditing the DMV in light of blatant mismanagement is exactly why Californians need help.”
Seven members each from the Senate and the Assembly comprise the joint audit committee. Audit approval requires a majority (or four votes) from representatives of each house.
Gov. Brown’s office called to give me the governor’s commitment to address the issues raised under the audit request. In committee, the chair agreed that we can revisit the request as soon as the end of this month if we don’t feel as though adequate progress is being made.
— Ben Allen (@BenAllenCA) August 8, 2018
On the Assembly side, Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) and Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) joined Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) in backing an audit.
“We need to get answers about DMV wait times and address this. I have heard time and time again from constituents in my district about unacceptable long wait times at our local offices. Audits are an important tool to get to the bottom of bureaucratic disarray, which was why I supported the request. I will continue to work with my colleagues to get this fixed,” Rubio said in a statement after the vote.
However, only three senators voted yes— Richard Roth (D-Riverside), along with Antony Cannella (R-Ceres) and Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield).
Three others, Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) abstained, preventing a majority vote on the Senate side.
Allen explained his thinking via Twitter.
“Gov. Brown’s office called to give me the governor’s commitment to address the issues raised under the audit request. In committee, the chair agreed that we can revisit the request as soon as the end of this month if we don’t feel as though adequate progress is being made,” Allen said.
Patterson plans to return to the committee with another audit request. He estimates that might be in six months.