If you've struggled to obtain new license plates or tabs, know that Minnesota lawmakers share your frustration. Minnesota's new licensing and registration system, a computer program known as MNLARS, is to blame. Please don't blame your local registrar, they are wonderful people who are equally as discouraged. The MNLARS went online in late July and has been plagued with issues, as deputy registrars and countless citizens have reported difficulties obtaining vehicle titles, tabs and license plates. This was worrisome considering people have been developing this program for almost 10 years, and state taxpayers have poured almost $100 million into it - or double the original projected cost. Lawmakers on House and Senate transportation committees began asking questions and were assured the problems were minor and fixable, that funding was not the issue, and that it was a matter of time until things were running smoothly. Fast forward to early February, where the Dayton administration announced that another $43 million was needed in taxpayer funds to address MNLARS' ongoing issues. To say people are troubled by this news is an understatement. I've been contacted by many who have expressed their outrage and disappointment: A local unit of government that was overcharged sales tax, only to be told they can't receive a refund because there isn't anyone at the department who can cut them a check. A man who received his new driver's license with all his personal information on the front with only one problem - the picture displayed was that of an older woman. The business that couldn't sell inventory because it couldn't secure the necessary title work. This is truly a failure on so many levels. I could go on, but you get the point. Meanwhile, 200,000 applications sit in limbo, waiting to be processed. From a House perspective, we have some of our best working on this case trying to find workable solutions. Transportation committee chairman Paul Torkelson and State Representative Dave Baker are two who have been digging into this issue to determine what went wrong and how to prevent more problems down the road. I find it difficult to believe that after a decade of preparation and nearly $100 million already spent, an immediate $43 million infusion into MNLARS will suddenly make this computer program work well. What's sad is this debacle could have and should have been avoided, and now everyday Minnesotans pay the price. I'll keep you updated on the MNLARS topic as session progresses, but for now, please don't blame your deputy registrar if you are having problems securing a vehicle title or tab. Unfortunately, their hands have been tied and they are in no way responsible for causing these headaches.
State Representative Rod Hamilton (R-Mt. Lake) serves Minnesota House District 22B, which is comprised of communities in Cottonwood, Redwood, Jackson and Nobles counties.