Unimpressed with Improvements, Lawmakers Pressure Public Safety Department to Fix MNLARS

September 11, 2017 10:23 PM

Deputy registrars came forward Monday, saying kinks in the state's new Licensing and Registration System, or MNLARS, are causing incorrectly calculated charges for seemingly simple transactions like new plates and tabs.

The state might be losing money. Taxpayers could be, too. But no one really knows.

In the eight weeks since MNLARS launched, the system has started to improve. However, it's not improving at the speed lawmakers would like to see.


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"The number that's posted is always busy," said Diane Hazlett of Waterville, Minnesota. She drove to St. Paul to testify before lawmakers about her issues with the new system. As did Ross Larson of Stillwater.

"I spent an hour-and-a-half at the (Department of Motor Vehicles) as they made phone calls back and forth, back and forth," he said.

"I'm not sure if my license is revoked. I took the back roads to get here," joked Lake Elmo resident Jay Pernu.

Pernu had a good sense of humor, but lawmakers weren't laughing.

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"Nobody likes to complain, but we have a whole bunch of Minnesota residents that have told us 'we have a problem,'" State Rep. Dave Baker said in response to testimony at Monday's House Transportation and Finance Committee hearing.

It took nine years and $90 million to make MNLARS a reality. 

"Unfortunately, we are not programmers, and ultimately, there is somebody in a cube somewhere that needs to fix this," said Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles.

The new system is supposed to unify data and make the whole process easier. As lawmakers learned on Monday, that wasn't the case for Hazlett.

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"It has a license plate on there that is foreign to me. It's not on my vehicle," she said of her current online information.

Hazlett later learned that the license plate isn't hers, but is registered to her as well as to the rightful owner of the car to which it's actually affixed.

"We are committed to getting through this," said Dawn Olson, director of the DPS' Driver and Vehicle Services.

Olson couldn't provide a timeline for fixing the problems but instead explained that MNLARS, by design, is an ever-changing system with updates planned in the future that will help.

"As the Commissioner of Public Safety, I apologize to you, and to the people of Minnesota and to our stakeholders and business partners," said DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman.

Among all the confusion, one thing is clear.  There's a long road ahead.

The legislative auditor vowed to audit MNLARS as soon as the system becomes stable. Nobles said there's a huge and immediate need to make sure those who needed to pay did pay, and to make sure the state didn't take more money than necessary for any of these transactions. 


Katherine Johnson

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