Drivers license operations looking to privatize

The Jindal administration is considering contracts to privatize some functions of the state Office of Motor Vehicles, including driver’s license renewals.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson said Saturday that it’s pilot project aimed at two locations to look at getting customers in and out the door faster. The review will decide whether to expand the program statewide.

State Office of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Stephen Campbell said Friday residents might eventually see a higher cost for transactions, perhaps as much as $18, but experience more convenience because of shortened wait times to get served.

Campbell said his agency is working with public tag agents to expand their work into the driver’s license arena. The agents are currently authorized service providers of the Office of Motor Vehicles and do car title registrations, changes of car ownership, registration renewals and brake tags for customers, such as car dealerships, for a higher price than the state charges.

There are about 120 public tag agents around the state.

The switchover already has begun in some areas, including locations in East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, a private company has taken over the lease and operations at the Office of Motor Vehicles location on Siegen Lane at Perkins Road.

In Jefferson Parish, a company runs the Veterans Boulevard office and became the first private firm to handle driver’s license renewals.

Discussions are occurring in Orleans, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. Other parishes in the state, including Lafayette, will see the change in coming months.

Campbell said the state will continue to handle initial driver’s licenses.

No Offices of Motor Vehicles will close, he said. Offices in smaller parishes will remain under state operation, Campbell said.

“No employee is going to lose their job. They may be doing a different job, but it will be in the OMV,” Campbell said.

Legislators already are calling Campbell to ask if it’ll cost drivers more, he said.

“The answer is ‘yes.’ But would you rather give us 600 employees back?” Campbell said, referring to positions that have been eliminated previously. “This is another way of delivering the same or better services under the close scrutiny of OMV.”

Campbell said it’s also “a way of dealing with people who want more services and somehow are unwilling to pay more taxes,” he said. “Hopefully we will decrease the wait times because of lack of personnel and budget cuts.”

Parishes and municipalities also can become public tag agents, Campbell said. Such status is in the works at Baton Rouge City Court, he said.