Editorials

Long lines and secret offices: California DMV is now a scandal

If legislators ever wonder why so many Californians hold them in such low regard, this is precisely why.

For months, people have been stuck in ridiculously long DMV lines. But on Wednesday, a legislative committee refused to order an audit to get to the bottom of the problem.

And it turns out, lawmakers don’t have to worry about waiting in line to renew their driver’s licenses or get new Real ID cards.

There’s an unlisted, unmarked Department of Motor Vehicles office near the state Capitol that serves legislators, legislative staffers and other favored government officials by appointment, The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff and Bryan Anderson revealed.

Californians – their constituents – have every right to be outraged.

It’s not too late to fix this.

For a start, legislators should open this office open to the public. It is also where lawmakers pass on complaints from their constituents about DMV. But want to bet if legislators had to take a number and cool their heels in long lines, they might feel just a little more urgency about shortening wait times?

Also, legislators can still approve the audit.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto warned that the audit would put a “strain” on her agency’s resources. What about the strain on its customers?

At the behest of Gov. Jerry Brown, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee rejected the audit, demanded by several Republicans. To move forward, it needed at least four votes from Assembly members and four from senators. But the request fell one vote short when three Democratic senators – Ben Allen of Santa Monica, Jim Beall of San Jose and Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens – did not vote.

This is how you turn a problem such as long DMV lines into a full-fledged scandal.

The Legislature’s approval rating has been rising, along with the economy. In one survey last year, it hit 57 percent, the highest since 1988.

But it’s likely those numbers will dip after several sexual harassment cases involving legislators and now this tone-deaf performance. Keep this up, and the Legislature will be even more hated than DMV, and just in time for the November election.

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