AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Wait times could soon be improved at Texas driver licenses offices, after lawmakers approved changes to driver license operations.
This week, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill that keeps the Texas Department of Public Safety running. One of the stipulations of the new law includes a feasibility study to examine and make recommendations on the “management and operating structure of the driver’s license program.” DPS currently issues and renews driver licenses.
The study, to be conducted by a third-party contractor, will also review the “opportunities and challenges of transferring the driver’s license program.”
State leaders have explored transferring those responsibilities from DPS to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The bill also creates a working group of DPS and TxDMV representatives to plan the transfer of the licensing programs. The third-party contractor is required to submit a report to lawmakers, DPS, and TxDMV by September 2020. If that report is not submitted on time, the new law states all driver license functions would automatically transfer.
A spokesperson from DPS did not immediately not respond to a request for comment, but the department has previously indicated it planned to work with lawmakers to address related issues.
A TxDMV spokesperson stated that agency would “work diligently and cooperatively” with DPS on the feasibility study.
“Careful collaboration with DPS, state leadership and impacted stakeholders, as well as clear and consistent communication with customers, are imperative for any transition to be successful,” TxDMV public information officer Adam Shaivitz wrote in an emailed statement Thursday.
According to a legislative analysis, lawmakers gave DPS $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2017, and the agency generated more than $811 million in revenue. Driver’s license fees accounted for about $405 million, amounting to about half of the generated revenue at DPS. That same year, the department employed more than 9,800 individuals, including nearly 4,200 peace officers.
This is not the first time DPS has been in the spotlight for shortcomings at driver license offices.
Last April, a state report cited long wait times and high call volumes, suggesting DPS consider consolidating offices. In August, DPS opted to leave 87 little known or unlisted centers open across the state. DPS said it would need more financial resources to meet the statewide demand.
A December audit by the state revealed gaps in security in the system for driver license information. At the time, an agency spokesperson said the driver license system is a “function and responsibility that is a top priority for DPS.”
The new DPS regulations extend driver license expiration dates to eight years from six years. Driver license fees for first-timers or renewals will also increase from $24 to $32.
For tips on how to renew your driver license or identification card online, by phone, or by mail, visit the DPS website.