STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 1999
CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2240

RAGE AT THE REGISTRY

Rage. It's what people seem to do nowadays when they're angry with something. Someone cuts you off in traffic- you lay down the horn, flash your lights, and yell obscenities out the window. There's a delay in your flight- you throw coffee on the flight attendant and scream at the top of your lungs. For some reason, it seems that people are not as patient or tolerant as they were in the past. They show blatant disregard for the rules of civililty, which ask that we show common respect and courtesy to each other. Somehow, people seem just plain angrier today and are more inclined to express their rage publicly. Thus, we have altercations on the highways, and now, on the airways. Despite the fact that this rage exemplifies the decay of manners and civility in the United States, it is also symptomatic of larger problems which lie beneath the surface. While rage is often directed at those who are not responsible for the larger systemic ills, its existence demonstrates that something is not working the way it should. And so, we have the example of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). I am not aware of any specific incidents of "Registry Rage, " but it is obvious that the ingredients are all there: long lines, unclear instructions, frustrated and overworked staff, and limited hours of operation. Add one really angry citizen, stir thoroughly and voila, registry rage.

Rather than turning a blind eye to this potential for disaster, the legislature has decided to investigate ways to improve the Registry's image, particularly in its public relations department. The Public Safety Committee, under whose jurisdiction the RMV falls, held statewide public meetings to discuss the Registry's successes and failures. Last week, that committee released its report documenting the many areas within the agency that need improvement, and posited several solutions. None of us, however, need to consult the Safety Committee to know that local RMVs are in troubled states.

This is not to say that progress has not been made, or that the RMV is in a constant state of dysfunction. Steps have been taken to make encounters with the Registry quicker, more pleasant experiences. License Express offices have opened throughout the state, computer technology has been updated, and "drive-through" sites have been established to streamline the process.

The fact remains however, as the committee noted, that there are several systemic problems which hamper the Registry's ability operate as effciently and effectively as it should. RMVs are understaffed, employees are often unaware of proper procedures, instructions are not always clear, the computer system malfunctions, and the telephone network is incapable of handling the multitude of incoming calls. Such conditions are responsible for the long lines and slow service to which we are accustomed.

In response to these problems, the Legislature has made several recommendations in its report that would drastically improve the quality of RMV services. Among the proposals are: expansion of hours of operation from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm; addition of a customer service representative to assist people as they walk in addition of more License Express centers to expand services; establishment of a new automated phone system; update of the present computer system to prevent crashes; creation of thorough and consistent training for all employees; improvement of consumer information phone line; listing of RMV functions in a clear and visible manner; creation of a Problem Resolution Office to research complex issues; expansion of service for insurance company "runners"; establishment of regional RMV offices in Worcester and Springfield;

These are but a few of the possible ways in which we may ameliorate the problems of the RMV. These measures, should they materialize in bill format, are commonsense initiatives that would allow the RMV to carry out is duties in a faster, more effective manner.

Problems remain, however, over how to fund these massive proposals. On one side, we have those who wish to raise fees and on the other, those who believe that we can squeeze the money from somewhere else. It would be difficult to make a definite decision as to which side is correct at the moment, because the issue needs to be investigated carefully. We do not want to simply throw money at a problem without carefully scrutinizing the situation. Taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of government inefficiency. However, it is quite possible that all of these new improvements may require additional funding via increased registry fees.

We know that Governor Weld's reduction of fees, while welcomed by all car owners in the Commonwealth, has resulted in the loss of revenues that would offset the rising operational costs experienced by the RMV, as well as road and bridge projects throughout the state. This may indicate that the agency is underfunded. If that is the case, and if we still desire to improve the services of the RMV, one solution might be to reinstate some of the fees that were wiped out under the Weld administration. This may be, on the surface, an unpopular measure for the taxpayers. But if we are really angry at the services of the RMV and if we really want something done, we might have to shell out a few additional bucks to improve services.

So long as citizens continue to express their dissatisfaction with the RMV, the House will remain committed to making it an effective, efficient, and consumer friendly agency. We will support any measures that will reduce the headaches suffered by the people of the Commonwealth when they renew licenses, apply for registrations, or take driving tests. It is in the public interest that our state agencies have the capability to serve the citizens of Massachusetts in the best way possible. Although the RMV is a model of efficiency compared to some other states (where you must make a reservation to wait in line all day), we must not think of the situation in relative terms. Our state has the reputation of being a pioneer, a leader, and we should not shy away from the obligation to effectively provide for the needs of our citizenry. Let's reform the RMV and stop the rage before it happens.

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