Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom deploys strike team to fix ‘chronically mismanaged’ California DMV

California’s new governor signaled on Wednesday he is making the state’s “chronically mismanaged” Department of Motor Vehicles a major priority, announcing the creation of a new team to improve services.

“By any metric, California DMV has been chronically mismanaged and failed in its fundamental mission to the state customers it serves and the state workers it employs,” Newsom said in a statement. “It’s time for a reinvention.”

Newsom said California Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer will lead the “DMV Reinvention Strike Team” for six months. Among many responsibilities, Batjer will be tasked with offering recommendations for “new long-term leadership and reform at the DMV.”

The news comes as the DMV struggles with a barrage of issues, mostly with issuing federally-mandated Real ID cards and improperly registering Californians to vote through the state’s Motor Voter program. Despite setbacks, the DMV has substantially reduced wait times in recent months.

The DMV did not respond to a request for comment on Newsom’s announcement and deferred to the California State Transportation Agency.

“We welcome the expertise that Secretary Batjer brings during this critical time,” said a statement from Brian Annis, secretary of the transportation agency. “I’m confident in her ability to assist the Department of Motor Vehicles during this time of improvement and innovation.”

Former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Batjer to lead the Government Operations Agency in 2014. She oversees a number of departments that make California government work, such as departments that oversee technology, tax collection, contracts and human resources policies. She has focused on modernizing state government with initiatives to rethink technology purchases and update personnel practices.

Newsom said he will also expedite an ongoing performance audit into the DMV. According to his office, he ordered an “accelerated review of early findings within 30 days” of the investigation being led by the Department of Finance.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has been a vocal critic of the DMV and former Gov. Brown’s role in denying a separate audit request he made in August 2018.

“What a difference an election makes,” Patterson said. “The words he is using are music to my ears. I trust he’s serious and will follow through.”’

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