ST. PAUL — The state's infamous vehicle licensing and registration system is set to get the boot. And with a replacement set to roll out over the next two years, state lawmakers on Monday, Sept. 9, said they were hopeful about the fresh start.
Lawmakers and IT experts on the Legislative Driver and Vehicle Systems Oversight Committee got an update from state public safety and IT officials as well as the new contractor set to run the replacement for MNLARS, the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System.
Unlike previous hearings where discussion steered toward problems with the vehicle licensing and registration system, Monday's meeting was relatively tame. A minor dust-up occurred around the pronunciation of the new system, VTRS (a hint: it rhymes with citrus).
Beyond that, lawmakers expressed optimism about the direction in which the state's program for obtaining licenses, vehicle registrations and other key resources was headed.
"We have turned a new page here. I think there's a new bipartisan spirit in terms of how we approach this issue," Rep. Frank Hornstein, D-Minneapolis, a co-chair of the panel, told reporters. "This is a new beginning."
Fast Enterprises, the company that has launched vehicle registration systems in several other states and helped Minnesota's system come into compliance with federal Real ID regulations, got the $33.9 million contract to replace MNLARS over the next two years with a packaged software system.
The Colorado-based company was the only company to submit a proposal for the contract, and state officials on Monday said a bar to bid for the contract that required a company to have set up licensing and registration in at least five states kept many from applying.
But that's not a bad thing, Rick King, the executive vice president from Thomson Reuters and chair of the state panel tasked with assessing how to move forward with MNLARS, said, as that ensures the group knows what it's doing.
Before the new system replaces MNLARS, drivers can expect shorter wait times at many offices and Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services officials said wait times for licenses or titles had been cut to 30 days. That's down from months-long wait times some reported as the MNLARS system experienced a faulty roll out in 2017.
The new program is scheduled to be completed in October of 2021 and drivers shouldn't expect any headaches as officials decommission the old system and put in place the new one.
“The service is actually going to become steadily better,” Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, told reporters following the hearing. “I think this is good news for Minnesota, I truly do.”
A separate issue, about low staffing levels and resulting wait times to sign up for driving exams also arose Monday. And members said they'd review the issue and take it up at a future hearing.
"We're going to have to continue to monitor that and make sure that gets addressed," Hornstein said.