Before the legislative session began, I shared information about legislation I had filed to modernize and standardize the services Oklahomans receive at tag agencies. Senate Bill 1605 consolidates services currently administered within the Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Tax Commission and places them under a new entity called Service Oklahoma, which will be located within the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
The pandemic really helped us more clearly see where there were challenges in the current system. Hours of operation and the services offered can vary quite a bit between tag agencies. Coupled with the problems associated with the pandemic and software glitches that made processing REAL IDs more difficult than it should have been, it was clear we needed to address several issues that were leaving customers frustrated.
I co-chaired a working group of legislators, and we received input from a working group of tag agents, along with the executive branch to come up with a roadmap that everyone ultimately supported. As part of this new system, Oklahoma will move to a franchise system and all existing tag agencies can apply to become Service Oklahoma locations.
Creating a franchise system means every Service Oklahoma location will offer citizens the same high level of customer service. I think it’s exciting that there will be the possibility to expand services in the future, enabling Oklahomans to be able to get other government documents, like birth certificates and marriage licenses. It’s what our citizens deserve, and I’m very gratified by the overwhelming support this measure received in the full Senate. This bill now crosses over to the House for further consideration. At the same time, an identical bill from the House, of which I’m the Senate principal author, will be headed to our chamber.
Another key bill modernizing state law was approved by the full Senate this past week. For years, we’ve been hearing about driverless vehicles and the states that had already begun allowing testing on their roads and highways. Back in 2019, Oklahoma began laying the groundwork for regulating these autonomous vehicles, or AVs as they are called, with a statute defining what an AV is and establishing the state’s authority to regulate their use. SB 1541 establishes that regulatory framework, requiring operators to have proper insurance and safety protocols in place.
Nineteen other states have already passed legislation allowing AVs to operate on their roadways. In fact, Oklahoma is the only state along the I-40 corridor that hasn’t authorized their operation at this point. After years of testing and having looked at the data from other states that already allow AVs, we know this technology is safe. If this legislation makes it all the way through, we’ll be joining nearby states like Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas that have already adopted similar regulatory legislation allowing AVs to operate on their roads.
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.