JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Contracts to operate Missouri’s DMV offices were once awarded without a bidding process, leading to accusations of contracts being given as political favors.
The state eventually put a bidding process in place. State Rep. Chris Dinkins (R-Annapolis) believes it’s time to change that process.
Dinkins presented HB 2121 to the House Transportation Committee on Thursday. The proposed legislation would require any person or entity operating a DMV to be a Missouri resident. Dinkins’ bill would also give favor to bidders who live in the county of the DMV office they hope to operate.
Dinkins said when the state increased the annual license fee from $3.50 to $6.00 last year, interest in operating DMV offices grew. The fee increase was in part aimed at generating interest in running offices in smaller communities struggling to keep open a DMV office. Dinkins believes too many offices run by local community members are losing bids to companies based outside of those communities.
“They weren’t just losing it to another person in the community but actually losing it to LLCs who were from out of state,” she said.
Dinkins and supporters of the bill maintain that when a local person or organization manages a DMV office, they are more likely to contribute to a community’s success by giving back through scholarships and other donations.
James Knowles testified against the proposed legislation. He represents Elle Management, a Missouri-based company that operates several DMV offices.
“It would be a giant step backwards 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,” Knowles 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 two counties or even 200 miles away.”
Janey Radford testified in support of the bill. She’s the president-elect of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. Radford told lawmakers the organization put in a bid to keep an office open when no one else was willing to run it. She said, “It’s never been about money for us it’s been about providing a community service. It’s about providing local jobs.”
Some committee members said one aspect of the bill they wanted to examine closer is how much it would cost the state to ensure the bill’s provisions were being met.