CARTOON: Waiting at the DMV

DMV cartoon

More Corruption and Bribery Uncovered at CA DMV

DMVThe state Department of Motor Vehicles used to be a symbol of bureaucratic inefficiency, the subject of decades of jokes by Jay Leno and other California-based comedians. But then something unexpected happened: The DMV adopted to the computer era better than most state agencies and is often easy to use nowadays, both in scheduling appointments and in handling registration and some license renewals online.

Now, however, the agency is becoming notorious for another problem: chronic corruption. This is from an Aug. 11 AP report:

As many as 100 commercial truck drivers paid up to $5,000 each to bribe state Department of Motor Vehicles employees for illegal California licenses, federal authorities said Tuesday.

Up to 23 traffic accidents could be related to the fraud, officials said, though there were no fatalities.

Emma Klem, a 45-year-old Salinas DMV employee, and trucking school owner Kulwinder Dosanjh Singh, 58, of Turlock, both pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said.

Two other DMV employees in Salinas and Sacramento and two other Central Valley trucking school operators have been arrested on similar charges.

Court records say the employees changed computer records to falsely show that drivers had passed written and behind-the-wheel tests after they were bribed by the owners of three truck-driving schools between June 2011 and March 2015. …

The DMV revoked or cancelled 602 commercial licenses that could be linked to the fraud, including the 100 that were pinpointed by investigators, said Frank Alvarez, the DMV’s chief investigator.

Bribery cases concentrated in San Diego County

This is only one of several recent cases. This is from a June Union-Tribune report:

— A California Highway Patrol officer is the second person to be charged in connection with a DMV bribery scandal.

Carlos Ravelo is accused of illegally transferring a temporary driver’s license to a driver, once in September 2013 and again in January 2014, according to an indictment unsealed in San Diego federal court last month.

Ravelo is a 13-year veteran officer and works at the CHP’s El Cajon station.

In March, a Westminster DMV employee was arrested and charged with two counts related to taking bribes to provide driver’s licenses.

The Los Angeles Times also notes other cases in San Diego County:

In February, a San Diego DMV official pleaded guilty to accepting bribes for setting aside license suspensions and providing unauthorized temporary licenses to drivers who had lost theirs after being arrested on DUI charges.

Last year, five employees of the DMV’s El Cajon and Rancho San Diego offices were convicted in connection with a bribery scam in which licenses were improperly provided to clients of a local driving school.

Low starting pay may be driving scandals

These are in addition to 21 FBI arrests related to bribery at the same two offices in May 2012. This is from the FBI’s press release:

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced today that employees at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in San Diego County were charged in a criminal complaint for their involvement in a long-running bribery conspiracy that resulted in the production of hundreds of fraudulent driver licenses for applicants who had failed — or not taken — the required driver license tests.

The complaint alleges that DMV officials at the El Cajon DMV office … and the Rancho San Diego DMV office … falsely entered both “passing” written and “passing” driving test scores for applicants in exchange for bribes ranging up to $3,000 per license.

In addition to the DMV employees, 16 other defendants were charged in the complaint. … According to court documents, the corruption scheme involved the fraudulent production of both Class C (regular) and Commercial Class A driver licenses. Hundreds of applicants paid recruiters approximately $400- $500 for each fraudulent Class C license … .

Considering that the starting pay of a “business service assistant” at DMV can be as low as $29,940 a year, this may be behind clerks deciding to augment their income illegally.

150,000 Licenses Given to “Undocumented” Immigrants in CA

After two months of granting driver’s licenses to once-undocumented immigrants, California officials reported big numbers. The Golden State program has supplied licenses to almost 150,000 immigrants. Supporters of the move have been quick to tout its perceived advantages — and to boost participation among those eligible.

Similar programs have been introduced in nine other states and the District of Columbia.

Originally introduced by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, the bill to issue driver’s licenses regardless of legal immigration status was passed into law in 2013. Assembly Bill 60, the Safe and Responsible Driver Act, permitted the expansion to take effect on the first day of 2015.

As the law specified, recipients did not get licenses identical to those possessed by U.S. citizens. Thanks to the requirements of federal law, the special licenses differed in their visual appearance by being marked, “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY.” They cannot be used for specified purposes like entering restricted federal areas.

Now, with the process established by the law well under way, Alejo began urging Californians to help eligible recipients take advantage of the program. There, he said, the key is ensuring interested participants actually pass the driving exam.

“It took us 20 years to pass this law in Sacramento, and now that it is a reality, it is up to all our community, not just the legislators, not just the DMV but also organizations in our communities, to take it seriously and put aside the time to study the books, and be able to pass those tests,” he said.

As the Californian reported, in January, “The statewide written knowledge exam passage rate for all applicants for a new driver’s license was 48 percent, including AB60 applicants” — an increase of 1 percentage point over the Jan. 2014 results.

Outsized demand

But other requirements and hurdles kept licenses out of the hands of many undocumented immigrants who wanted them. “Altogether, about 387,000 undocumented immigrants applied for licenses during the first two months of the program, the state said, but only 131,000 were granted them,” according to Reuters. “Immigrants applying for the licenses must still prove their identities with birth certificates or other means,” in addition to passing the driver’s test.

The flood of demand has reflected a growing sense statewide that beneficiaries simply won’t be subject to increased scrutiny at the federal level. Activists in the legal field have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

“The DMV has said they will not refer these cases to law enforcement as long as the person used the license for driving purposes only and did not commit any other criminal activity,” said one San Francisco attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “We have not yet seen how this policy is playing out, so we are advising people to use caution.”

More organs

Although the licensing program has divided voters in California, where the issue of undocumented immigrants remains sharply unpopular among many residents, beneficiaries of AB60 have scored a public relations coup of sorts thanks to an unanticipated development: increased rates of organ donation.

As the Fresno Bee reported, the California Transplant Donor Network reasoned the law spurred an increase of some 30 percent:

“From Jan. 2 to March 3, 56,000 people signed up as organ donors, according to the donor network, the only federally designated organ recovery organization in Northern and Central California and Northern Nevada.

“‘It’s got to be more than a coincidence that in the past three months — since AB60 took effect — so many people were added to the donor registry, said spokesman Anthony Borders. ‘It’s the only spike that’s happened in the last few years.’”

Although analysts have not yet connected all the dots, some accounts suggested Latinos who immigrated illegally have benefited from clear religious support in opting to donate.

“Recent popes have spoken in favor of organ donations,” the Orange County Register reported. “Pope Benedict XVI was a card-holding organ donor until he became pope, according to the Catholic News Agency. More recently, Pope Francis described organ donations as ‘a testimony of love for our neighbor.’”

Francis is the first pope from Latin America.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

79,000 CA Driver’s Licenses Issued to Illegal Immigrants … So Far

Move out of the way, Californians. Illegal aliens are in the building … literally.

Now that DMV – everyone’s favorite destination – is giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses, new offices are being opened around the state, more employees are being hired and office hours are being extended.

According to the Orange County Register, “DMV has issued 79,000 new driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and administered approximately 523,000 written and behind-the-wheel exams” since the law took effect on January 2nd.

I’m not sure what’s more ludicrous – giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses or using our tax dollars to provide them with this luxury. While most people say they want illegal aliens to have driver’s licenses, they forget a few major points:

Number one: Why are we providing someone the ability to drive in our country when they aren’t allowed to be here in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to deport them? If they break the law before they’re a United States citizen, how do we know they won’t break the law if and when they’re a legal citizen?

Number two: It’s not fair to reward those who break the law. What about the people who have waited years to come to our country? They’re being penalized for following the proper protocol.

Number three: My mom was involved in an accident with an illegal alien. He had no license, no insurance and was let off scot-free. I wrote about the experience extensively. Unfortunately, Americans are left with the aftermath while an illegal alien is able to move on with their lives.

Giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens does nothing but place an even greater burden on our system. Those of us who pay into the tax system are seeing our tax dollars used to extend the DMV, one of the biggest government bureaucracies, for the benefit of those who don’t contribute via taxes.

Instead of literally throwing money down the drain, our nation needs to address the immigration system as a whole. Some states, like California, who are giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses, are asking for a wave of illegals to flock to the state for this benefit.

Not only is this an immigration issue, but it’s also an economic issue. Bringing low-skilled labor to the market is not what California needs. We need high-skilled, highly valuable workers who will raise wages, not lower them.

DMV Jammed — Illegal Immigrants to Blame?

Have you tried to schedule an appointment for a license renewal lately?

I received a renewal reminder in mid-January. The expiration of my license is March 18th.

Within a week after receiving it, I attempted to schedule an appointment at the DMV.  I tried several offices in the area – the earliest appointments were in early to mid-April.  Does me a lot of good.

I called Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian’s office for assistance.  The field rep confirmed my suspicion that the lack of timely appointments was due to the surge of applicants caused by the passage of AB60, the bill authorizing the licensing of illegal immigrants.

Put aside the divisive politics for a moment.  When the legislature passes a bill that creates a reasonably predictable response – and certainly anyone in Sacramento could have figured AB60 would send people flocking to the DMV – would it not make sense to staff offices accordingly, even extend hours into the evening?

Better yet, why not grant automatic 30-day extensions to those of us with the misfortune to have their renewals fall in this timeframe?

I suggested that to Nazarian’s field representative.  He doubted anything could be done.

“Why not executive action,” I asked.  Once again, he could not see that happening.

I guess Governor Brown is too preoccupied with laying track for HSR.

The rep did say he would pass along my suggestion to the assembly member.

My next stop – State Senator Hertzberg.

I will keep you posted.

 (Paul Hatfield is a CPA and former NC Valley Village board member and treasurer.  He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com)

Originally posted on CityWatchLA.com

Regulation of Uber, Lyft Thrown Into Question by California DMV

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California’s burgeoning efforts to regulate ride-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft have reached a fork in the road after the Department of Motor Vehicles issued an advisory that, in mandating commercial registration, threatens to upend the companies’ business model.

Conceived as an alternative to taxicabs, firms like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar allow people to use their personal vehicles to transport customers who have hailed a ride using a smartphone app. They tout their flexibility and potential for non-professional drivers to make some extra cash.

But the DMV said earlier this month that any time a car is used to transport people in exchange for compensation, that car must have commercial plates – an order that contradicts previous state regulations, according to the industry. …

 

Brown fuels incentives for alternative-energy cars

Convinced carbon emissions pose an “existential threat” to the human race, Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a set of bills designed to push ahead an environmental agenda dependent on automobiles that don’t run on gas. Among other new rules, regulations and programs, the new legislation set three changes in motion.

Assembly Bill 2013, by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, expanded the sticker program that authorizes drivers of low-emissions vehicles to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes regardless of whether they carry any passengers. The bill raised the total number of stickers authorized for DMV issuance from 55,000 to 75,000.440px-Electric_car_charging_Amsterdam

Aware of the symbolic political value of statistics, Gov. Brown has sought to use memorable numbers to capture the environmental imagination of elites and the public alike. That approach was evident in an additional bill signed by Brown, Senate Bill 1275, by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; on Oct. 15 he will become the Senate’s president pro tempore.

It officially set a goal of one million zero- or near-zero emissions vehicles on California roads by 2023. In addition to ordering the California Air Resources Board to create a plan to meet the objective, SB1275 required the board to create new incentives for lower-income residents, who are less likely to purchase or lease alternative energy cars or trucks.

To do that, CARB was tasked to expand California’s electric and hybrid car rebate program. First used in 2010, over 75,000 rebates have gone out to Golden State motorists. As the Los Angeles Times reported, CARB will beef up that program by offering extra credit to qualifying “low-income drivers” who choose an electric vehicle.

Moreover, CARB will oversee the installation of new charging stations in selected low-income residential buildings and bolster car-sharing programs in targeted neighborhoods. “Low-income residents who agree to scrap older, more polluting cars will also get clean-vehicle rebates on top of existing payments for junking smog-producing vehicles,” according to the Times.

Beyond cars

Finally, Brown signed off on legislation using CARB to push alternate fuel use for heavier vehicles. That bill, SB1204, was introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. Its aim is to subsidize the development, purchase and leasing of zero- and near-zero emission buses and trucks, dramatizing Brown’s vision of an overhauled transportation infrastructure for California.

To do that, however, SB1204 authorized $200 million in cap-and-trade fee revenue to be allocated to various incentives for alternate-fuel buses and trucks. In the recent past, Brown came under fire, even from environmentalists, for diverting cap-and-trade funds to his prized but costly high-speed rail project. Although critics have not rallied against the new allocation of funds, Brown’s rival in this year’s gubernatorial race did not hesitate to jump on the move.

“If he was serious about climate change,” Neel Kashkari told the Sacramento Bee, “he would be taking the cap-and-trade revenue and funding basic research at Stanford, at Berkeley, at Caltech, so we develop cleaner technologies that are also cheaper, and we export them around the world.”

A final mission

With Brown’s tenure in Sacramento coming to an end either this year or in four years, his idiosyncratic but dogged approach to environmental issues has taken on the air of a capstone personal project. At this week’s United Nations summit on climate issues, Brown told world leaders that within six months he planned to set new, lower carbon emissions goals for 2030.

AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, mandated reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020, just six years away.

Realizing his ambitions, Brown said, will take more ambition and more technology, “and will also require heightened political will.”

James Polous is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.com