On Monday, the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee passed legislation to address the failure of Minnesota’s new licensing and vehicle registration system known as MNLARS. The legislation, Senate File 3133, authored by Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), appropriates $7.3 million from existing funds for driver and vehicle services specifically for the immediate costs related to I.T. support. It also includes strict legislative oversight for its continued development.
“There is no question that MNLARS must be fixed, but that fix cannot come without strict legislative oversight,” said Senator Newman, chairman of the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “This is an executive branch project, but these state agencies have not demonstrated they are capable of getting this program fixed in a timely manner, nor have they demonstrated they are able to fix MNLARS to the satisfaction of the deputy registrars, auto dealers, and consumers across the state experiencing frustration with this program every day.”
The bill requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Minnesota IT Services (MN.IT) officials to submit a proposed timeline, including quarterly benchmarks, for a fully-functional MNLARS to the Legislative Advisory Committee by May 15. As the software is developed, the Legislative Advisory Committee must approve any additional quarterly appropriation, provided the quarterly benchmarks are being met.
Despite a decade of planning and over $93 million, MNLARS was rolled out last July with widespread problems. In the eight months since its release, those difficulties largely remain. The legislation passed today is expected to be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. It will likely be considered by the full Senate later this week.
“This legislation appropriates the funding necessary to immediately move forward with program development, but it does not include funding for any additional full-time employees to answer the phones. I believe we should be spending funds on getting this program up-and-running, but not without strict legislative oversight to ensure accountability and transparency,” said Senator Newman.
Senator Scott Newman is in his third term representing Senate District 18, which includes communities in McLeod, Meeker, Sibley, and Wright counties. He also serves as chair of the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.