The pandemic has highlighted a variety of challenges in our state and helped us to prioritize those through working groups, tasks forces and legislation. One of those issues has been the need to modernize our tag agencies and related services.
As you may know, last year I was asked to help resolve the backlog of REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and state ID cards. Tag agencies had been hit with the double whammy of decreased staff and hours as well as other necessary social distancing protocols due to COVID-19, coupled with software problems that brought the entire operation to a crashing halt. Customers were left scrambling to find locations that were open and offered the services they needed. Appointments were almost impossible to get, and some citizens had to drive to other parts of the state to stand in line before sunrise and hope they were among those who could be served that day.
In order to reduce the backlog, this summer we created temporary megacenters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. During the time the two centers were open, they served more than 88,400 citizens. As I said, the megacenters gave us a short-term way for reducing backlogs, but there is more to be done. The services provided, the hours of operation and customer service can vary greatly depending on the particular tag agency, leaving many Oklahomans frustrated. It was clear we needed to have a comprehensive plan to address the issues and concerns facing Oklahoma.
This interim, I was part of a legislative working group who collaborated with a tag agent working group to develop a new model for delivering the services Oklahomans need and deserve. As a result, I will be introducing legislation this session creating Service Oklahoma, a division of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). Duties and responsibilities that currently reside within the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Department of Public Safety related to tags, licenses and other services will be placed under Service Oklahoma with the overall goal of modernizing and standardizing how services are delivered in communities and counties throughout our state.
This standardization and modernization will mean wherever you go, you can expect the same hours of operation, types of services, and the same high level of customer service. All current tag agents will be offered the opportunity to become Service Oklahoma locations.
I truly believe this modernization will enhance the customer experience for Oklahomans seeking tags, licenses and other services with a standardized approach that will better serve our entire state. I appreciate the hard work and input of my fellow members and the tag agency representatives who have been a part of this much-needed process.
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.