New bill could change how operators are selected for DMVs

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The way Missouri selects the operator of your local DMV office could be in for a change.

The current method was created to take politics out of the process.

Contracts to operate Missouri DMV’s were once awarded without bids.

That led to accusations contracts were given as political favors.

Now there are calls to change the current bidding process.

State representative Chris Dinkins testified before the House Transportation Committee about a change she’s witnessed after the annual license fee for drivers went from $3.50 to $6.

Those additional fees created a greater financial motive to operate an office.

The increase was designed in part to generate interest in operating offices in smaller communities struggling to keep them open.

“It was a struggle for us to go out and recruit people and all of a sudden we got an increase and now everybody wants a piece of the pie,” Dinkins said.

House Bill 2121 would require bidders to live in Missouri and give favor to bidders who live in the county of the office they are bidding to operate.

Dinkins testified local operators are losing bids to outsiders.

“These weren’t just losing it to another person in the community but actually losing it to LLCs who were from out of state,” Dinkins said.

A representative from a Missouri company currently operating DMV’s in the state believes giving locals an inside track is not in the best interest of the state.

“It would be a giant step backward toward the old system by giving a large and unfair advantage to bidders based on geography and not based on their ability to provide high-quality service to their customers,” James Knowles of Elle Management said.

Testimony in support of the bill came from those who believe local operators have the best interests of their communities in mind.

“It’s never been about money for us it’s been about providing a community service it’s about providing local jobs,” Janey Radford with Washington County Chamber of Commerce said.

“The company headquarters being in the same county or even within a specified radius puts no more obligation on a company to be more responsive than someone to counties or even 200 miles away,” Knowles said.

One issue committee members want to examine closer is how much it would cost the state to make sure operators are compliant with the bill’s requirements.

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