When it comes to getting a driver license renewed, purchasing a tag or getting a REAL ID compliant driver license or identification card, this past year it’s been a much more difficult process than Oklahomans are used to. The fact is over the past few months, we’ve been dealing with a perfect storm of events no one had foreseen.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant tag agencies, like so many other businesses, couldn’t operate the way they had before. In order to protect the health of their customers and employees, social distancing had to be put in place, which significantly slowed the number of people who could be served. Also, consider the fact that in smaller offices, a single case of COVID could shut down the entire business—these are things tag agents across the state have been dealing with.
The process of getting REAL ID compliant driver licenses and state ID cards is an additional complication. Specific documentation is required to get this form of driver license or ID, which was developed as a direct result of the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001, and beginning October 1, REAL ID cards will be necessary for commercial air travel or for visiting or doing business in any federal building or facility. Processing those documents takes much more time than a noncompliant license or ID. I do want to remind everyone that Oklahomans opting not to have a REAL ID will still be able to fly or go to those facilities with alternative identification, including passports and other government-issued IDs.
On top of the issues of a more complex process for getting REAL ID, we were having major problems with the software that would sometimes update during business hours, shutting tag agencies’ systems down. All of this has been incredibly difficult for everyone involved.
I’ve been tapped to be the point person on this issue for the Oklahoma Senate, and I’ve been working with tag agents, the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the Department of Public Safety, the Office of Enterprise Services and others in the executive branch, along with counterparts in the House as we seek both short-term and long-term solutions.
I can report that we’ve addressed the software issue that was causing so many issues, and we’re working on other improvements for online services as well.
We’re also going to follow the models used to help eliminate backlogs Oklahomans faced when filing for unemployment benefits, and that have been used to successfully roll-out vaccinations for thousands of people in a day. In fact, I’ve been working with officials at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the Health Department to find out what they’ve learned about successfully putting these big events together.
We’re looking at holding large, special events in locations throughout the state that would enable us to process tags, titles, driver licenses and real IDs, reducing and ultimately eliminating the backlog. I’ll also have legislation moving forward that will enable Oklahomans to renew a driver license every eight years, instead of every four.
I want to thank everyone who has been working with me to develop both short-term and long-term solutions. This situation has been frustrating and inconvenient, but the bottom line is, we’re going to do what Oklahomans have always done when facing a challenge—we’re going to roll up our sleeves, work together, and get it done.
Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.