California lawmakers divided over long waits at DMV offices

dmvLong wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles were the subject of continued controversy Wednesday at a Capitol hearing and at a campaign event where Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox said the problem has been mishandled.

The Assembly Budget Committee voted 15 to 10 Wednesday on a budget bill that allows the DMV to pursue an additional $26 million to speed up the processing of licenses at field offices. But the agency must justify any request in writing and provide a monthly report on how money is being spent.

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we continue to follow up and understand how these resources are deployed so that these wait times, which are a statewide issue, can be addressed across the board,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman.

The budget bill was opposed by a bloc of Republicans, including Assemblyman Jay Obernolte of Big Bear Lake, who said DMV officials last week could not satisfactorily explain what they plan to do with $16 million that was provided earlier this month. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Legislative Committee Fails on DMV Audit

DMVThat slow moving sloth at the DMV counter in the movie ZOOTOPIA was funny to movie goers but those who wait in a California DMV office for six, seven and even eight hours to take care of business are not laughing. A solution to the long lines was offered by the head of the DMV to a legislative committee that is the universal go-to remedy when government is failing in its responsibilities—give us more money. How about finding out how the current money is being spent? The DMV should be audited.

DMV director Jean Shiomoto requested $26 million to hire 400 more employees. She said the problem is that the federal government will soon require a Real ID license to board airplanes and for other identification purposes and explaining the change to DMV customers has slowed interactions between employees and customers at DMV facilities.

But the Real ID requirement has been known for years and the legislature has sent additional funds to the DMV to deal with the expected slowdown.

How well has that money been spent? How well is the DMV managing the resources it now has?

We may never know.

A request to audit the DMV was turned aside by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. While the required number of Assembly members approved an audit, the vote fell one shy on the Senate side when three Democratic senators abstained.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who requested the DMV audit, said in a statement, “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.”

Director Shiomoto opposed the audit saying it would strain agency resources and pull employees away from their jobs.

But an audit is a way to reveal the efficiency—or lack there of—of the agency. Indeed, the State Auditor’s mission statement says, “The California State Auditor promotes the efficient and effective management of public funds.”

With mounting outrage from constituents it is a prime responsibility of the legislature to promote effective use of public funds to ease the anger and to get the job done as effectively as possible.

That’s why the audit makes sense.

The problem for the DMV and many dedicated DMV employees is that they suffer from the perception offered up by that movie sloth. The only way to correct the image is to analyze the problem and produce a fix. An audit could tell us how to proceed.

Without an audit, throwing money at the problem is a great risk. Maybe that is enough to solve the problem but the track record at the DMV on improving customer service with increased dollars is not inspiring.

ditor and co-publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Drivers are fed up with the DMV. So are California lawmakers

DMVTyré Nichols had no clue what he was getting himself into. He went online, arrived at the office at 9:45 a.m. and brought all his necessary paperwork.

He expected to be in and out within a couple hours. And yet, there he sat six hours later, waiting outside the Department of Motor Vehicles in miserable 98-degree heat.

He soaked in the views of cars endlessly searching for imaginary spaces and watched the scores of people illegally cross a busy street. He was joined by the dozens more who couldn’t find a seat in the cramped office filled with a couple hundred people.

Nichols had plenty of company. There was the 92-year-old woman unable to take her renewal test by the 4:30 p.m. closing time after waiting in line since 10 a.m. There was Ben Koehler, who was celebrating his 28th birthday scurrying at the last minute to get his license renewed before it expired the following day. There were countless others with stories to tell, all of whom had one thing in common: They were furious. …

Click here to read the full article from the Fresno Bee

New Plan Would Stop the Undocumented from Getting Driver’s Licenses

DMVAn initiative that would reverse a law that allows immigrants residing in California illegally to obtain driver’s licenses has been cleared to begin gathering signatures for the 2020 ballot.

The proposal also seeks to eliminate the current “sanctuary state” law and end automatic voter registration practices in California. Don Rosenberg, the main proponent of the proposal and a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, said he believes the plan will increase public safety, reduce voter fraud and prevent traffic fatalities.

More than 1 million illegal immigrants in California have been issued driver’s licenses since Assembly Bill 60 took effect in 2015.

“The line that AB 60 will make the roads safer was totally bull,” Rosenberg said. “It is not safer. It was a complete lie.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 60, introduced by former Assemblyman Luis Alejo, in 2013. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown approves automatic voter registration for Californians

Voting boothTargeting California’s recent record-low voter turnout, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a measure that would eventually allow Californians to be automatically registered to vote when they go the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license.

The measure, which would also allow Californians to opt out of registering, was introduced in response to the dismal 42% turnout in the November 2014 statewide election.

That bill and 13 others the governor signed Saturday, will “help improve elections and expand voter rights and access in California,” Brown’s office said in a statement.

Some 6.6 million Californians who are eligible to register to vote have not registered, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who supported the legislation as a way to increase voter participation. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

California green lights fully driverless cars for testing on public roads

California will allow fully autonomous cars without safety drivers to test on public roads for the first time. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced the change today, which outlines a permitting process for companies wishing to deploy driverless vehicles without anyone behind the wheel.

“This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement. “Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California.”

Last October, the California DMV issued revised regulations governing the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Among their many provisions, the new rules would allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads starting in 2018.

Today, the state’s Office of Administrative Law approved the regulations that would permit fully driverless testing. A public notice will go up on the DMV’s website on March 2nd, which starts a 30-day clock before the first permits can be issued on April 2nd. Companies can apply for three types of permits: testing with a safety driver, driverless testing, and deployment. …

Click here to read the full article from The Verge

New California law will automatically register illegal immigrants to vote

A new law in California that goes into effect this spring will automatically register people to vote – including immigrants who are in the country illegally.

In 2015, the state passed a law called the California New Motor Voter Act to increase voter rolls by simplifying the process to register to vote.

The legislation, which goes into effect April 1, will automatically register people who apply for a new driver’s license or new state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

California has long provided driver’s licenses to anyone who claims to be in the country legally, whether they provide proof or not, which means illegal aliens will be registered to vote, WND reports. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Mail

MADD-Backed Ignition Interlock Mandate Wrong for California

Drunk driving2After nearly a decade of activists working to pass a law mandating installation of ignition interlock devices (IID’s) in the cars of anyone convicted of a DUI, success appeared imminent — until a couple weeks ago.

Senate Bill 1046 has been positively flying through the Assembly — enjoying the kind of unanimous support reserved for feel-good legislation pushed by a group no one wants to oppose.

It’s almost as if Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and its allies in the Assembly hoped they could outrun the facts.

But last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released its “Specific Deterrent Evaluation of the Ignition Interlock Pilot Program in California,” which studied the efficacy of the interlock mandate in four California counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare. Much to the dismay of advocates, the DMV report did not advocate in favor of expanding the pilot program statewide.

The bottom line of the DMV report: Those who installed the devices had an increased risk of crash or fatal injury compared to those who did not.

That’s right: Instead of making the roads safer, a statewide ignition interlock mandate for all offenders would likely make drivers less safe.

It makes sense if you think about it. IID’s require the driver to not only blow into them when they start the car, but also undergo a “rolling retest” which occurs at random to ensure the driver didn’t simply have someone else blow into the device to start the car. But picking up the device when it beeps to complete a long breath test is a massive distraction — not unlike texting and driving.

But there are some in California who don’t want a small detail like public safety to get in the way of a feel-good agenda. MADD, along with the bill’s author State Senator Jerry Hill, are already looking for ways to discredit the DMV’s impartial findings.

Yet this is the second year in a row that the DMV evaluated the pilot program and refused to recommend expanding it. In 2015, the five-year pilot program was extended for an additional 18 months after the DMV found that “the IID pilot program was not associated with a reduction in the number of first-time and repeat DUI convictions in the pilot counties.”

Since proponents of expanding interlock mandates in California can’t point to empirical evidence that the law would have a net positive effect on traffic safety, they instead fall back on the fact that 26 other states have passed similar laws. What they don’t mention is how poorly the laws are working in those states.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association fewer than 20 percent of those ordered to get an interlock actually have them installed. The reason is that laws like the one proposed in California are an unfunded mandate, meaning there’s no money to ensure that offenders actually comply with the law.

That’s why ignition interlock mandates for all offenders is such misguided public policy. Over 70 percent of alcohol-related fatalities are caused by high-BAC and repeat offenders — hard-core alcohol abusers. California could save far more lives if it worked to reach 100 percent ignition interlock installation compliance among this target population, rather than expanding the mandate so widely that it is even more difficult to enforce.

But that wouldn’t serve MADD’s ultimate agenda of seeing alcohol-sensing technology installed in every car in America.

It may sound far-fetched, but MADD has long supported an ongoing federal program called DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) which has developed technology that can read a driver’s blood alcohol concentration level through touch technology in the steering wheel or ignition button. A drivable prototype was unveiled last year and engineers aim to have it on the market in approximately five years.

Thus, MADD is pushing hard to expand current ignition interlock laws. The more the current technology is normalized, the easier it will be to sell its more sophisticated progeny to legislators and the public.

But just because the DMV report doesn’t serve MADD’s ultimate goal, doesn’t mean we should ignore the findings.

Facts are stubborn things. And the fact is, interlock mandates for first-offenders aren’t the drunk driving panacea MADD wants them to be.

Sarah Longwell is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

Study: DMV Auto-Registration to Add 2 Million New Voters

VotedCalifornia’s electorate could grow by more than 2 million voters once a new law implementing automatic registration through the DMV starts working in 2017, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, predicts that as voter registration increases, so will diversity in the electorate among underrepresented groups.

However, determining how much the electorate will grow largely depends on the rate with which eligible voters decline automatic registration at the DMV, according to the study.

How it works

Under the new law, the DMV will transfer data on customers, who come in for a new license or a renewal, to the Secretary of State for automatic voter registration. However, the individual can decline to participate in the process. This process is estimated to start in July 2017.

As a benchmark, the study used statistics from Oregon, where 7 percent of eligible voters declined automatic enrollment under a similar law.

About 7.4 million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered.

Increases diversity

The new law will increase the share of the electorate for underrepresented groups. Latinos would increase their share by 4 percent, up to almost 28 percent. Asian/Pacific Islanders would jump to 16.6 percent, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The gains made by Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders would have a diminishing effect on African American’s share of the electorate, as their share would decrease slightly to 7.3 percent — a loss of .2 percent.

The largest jump would be among Californians with no college education, who would increase their share of the electorate from 26.8 percent to 33.1 percent.

“In general, registering the unregistered population involves bringing a very different group of people into the electorate: one that is younger, more diverse, more mobile, poorer, and less educated,” writes the study’s authors Eric McGhee, a research fellow at PPIC and Mindy Romero, founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.

Will it lead to turnout?

Despite the new law increasing the share of the electorate among underrepresented groups, gaps will persist. For example, voters with two foreign-born parents currently experience a 15-percentage-point gap between their share of the adult population and their share of the electorate. The new law would shrink that gap to below 11 points.

The study’s authors concede that it’s difficult to determine exactly how large the new electorate will be, with the rate of declining to register as the largest variable. And the larger registration rates will not necessarily boost voter turnout, which has been decreasing for decades, but was particularly low in the 2012 primary.

“Even if (the new system) does significantly boost registration, it does not solve the problem of low turnout; it simply removes one barrier to participation,” wrote McGhee and Romero. “Many of the new registrants will be coming from disadvantaged communities and will be disengaged from politics, never having been contacted by any candidate or campaign.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Thoughtless Bureaucrats and Driverless Cars

google car2California’s Legislature set out in 2012 “to encourage the current and future development, testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state” — but now, the state is poised effectively to ban such cars from the roads and highways. The Department of Motor Vehicles held a public workshop in Sacramento in late January and another in Los Angeles in early February to discuss draft regulations for autonomous vehicles. Though the rules won’t be finalized before the end of the year, the news so far isn’t good — for the cars. Under the cover of “consumer protection,” the DMV proposes to limit the rollout of autonomous technology by, among other things, barring its commercial use, precluding truly autonomous operation, and prohibiting private sale and ownership of self-driving cars.

The DMV is best known for ensuring that 16-year-olds are minimally competent behind the wheel of traditional motor vehicles; it has no particular expertise in evaluating the appropriateness of vehicle-safety requirements. But that hasn’t stopped the department from imposing an excess of caution on the approval of autonomous-vehicle technology. The idea of cars or trucks operating without steering wheels or human drivers is exciting to entrepreneurs and commuters. Google’s autonomous car would have no steering wheel, or even pedals. A delivery service such as Google Express would likely roll out without drivers. Uber is researching how to replace drivers as well. Shipping and logistics companies also envision a future when goods move from harbors to warehouses in autonomous trucks. More than a dozen disabled activists appeared at the hearing in Los Angeles to urge the DMV to allow purely autonomous vehicles, saying they would be a boon for people, such as the blind, who are incapable of driving right now. But the idea is terrifying to bureaucrats and regulators. The DMV’s smothering — and costly — approach will likely become state policy, squelching such innovations.

Keeping driverless cars off the streets is one thing; why ban their sale entirely? DMV chief information officer Bernard Soriano said last month that because the proposed rules would place a three-year limit on the use of approved vehicles, buyers likely wouldn’t receive much benefit over such a short period of ownership. Furthermore, the DMV believes that by prohibiting sales, the rules would protect early adopters of the technology from being stuck with vehicles that are later deemed unsafe by the department. Finally, the DMV maintains that leased vehicles, which remain under the ownership of the vehicle manufacturer, will be easier to collect data from.

The first of the rationales is the most compelling, but only compared with the others. With only three years before retirement, a purchased vehicle’s value — much of it traditionally recouped in its resale — would be destroyed by these regulations. The rule would shift a greater financial burden onto manufacturers and all but guarantee that the only people able to afford early vehicles, even by leasing them, will be wealthy. If anything, the three-year sunset requirement is itself a constructive ban on ownership, which makes the DMV’s second rationale irrelevant. If a small, wealthy segment of the population is aware of the state’s strictures and doesn’t mind temporarily possessing a vehicle that’s doomed by law, it can certainly afford the risk. The state’s supposed desire to protect these people from loss seems at once unnecessary and disingenuous.

The DMV’s third and final rationale — compliance with reporting requirements—is even more poorly conceived. As with every vehicle sold today, the manufacturer, for better or worse, controls the technology used and the data it produces. When you buy or lease a car, you sign a contract that says so explicitly. So the DMV would have access to any safety data it likes, regardless of whether the “owner” is the manufacturer or the end user.

Without question, prohibiting private sale and ownership of self-driving cars and trucks would destroy value and raise costs. Google has already threatened to take its autonomous vehicle business elsewhere. Given that outcome, the DMV’s justifications simply don’t hold up. So why would the DMV push prohibition with such gusto? Why would the state pursue policies to discourage the adoption of vehicles that, by virtually all accounts, would be orders of magnitude safer than traditionally operated vehicles? And, how does a department charged with enacting the will of the legislature land so far afield of the legislature’s stated goal of creating a legal framework that promotes autonomous vehicles? Very simply, lawmakers deferred too much authority to a bureaucracy, and California’s motorists will pay the price.