TRENTON – Lawmakers want to force the Motor Vehicle Commission to end its policy of having some agencies available only for license transactions and others only for vehicle-related ones, a change its chief is reluctant to end because it’s more efficient for the state.

Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, said things wouldn’t go back to all walk-in, with waiting in line. But appointments would be available for all transactions at all locations.

“With all the efficiencies of having so many transactions being online now, surely that frees up enough space to do what we were always doing prior,” Benson said.

The Assembly transportation committee endorsed a bill (A3916) at its Thursday meeting requiring the change. Benson said it might mean buying more cameras for REAL ID and scheduling extra shifts but that the MVC shouldn’t settle for people making long drives to agencies just because they’re less frequent.

“The bafflement that I have is we did it before, so I think it’s a matter of figuring it out not necessarily a matter of even more resources,” Benson said.

MVC agencies were closed for four months at the start of the pandemic, then split up its license and vehicle transactions by location as it tried to meet pent-up demand.

Lawmakers told MVC chief administrator Sue Fulton they wanted the change at budget hearings, but Fulton said a return to that pre-pandemic approach isn’t planned because splitting things up by agency helped the state process a record of more than 12 million transactions last year.

Assemblyman Chris DePhillips, R-Bergen, said the MVC is a customer service agency.

“The MVC has to realize that its job is to ensure convenience for the residents of the state, not convenience for itself,” DePhillips said.

Assemblyman Christian Barranco, R-Morris, said the MVC needs to assess what it would need to not botch the expansion, given its shortcomings over the past two years.

“There’s no secret that the MVC has struggled terribly with what we need as drivers and as citizens of New Jersey,” Barranco said.

Eric DeGesero said all New Jerseyans share frustrations about the MVC. But he also sees it a bit differently, as executive vice president for the New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association and a lobbyist for the New Jersey Motor Truck Association.

“Imagine that your livelihood depends on interacting with the MVC,” DeGesero said.

Back in March, DeGesero said, a Fuel Merchants Association member from Hunterdon County had to send someone to Cape May to pick up a document that wasn’t complicated and realistically could have been handled in Flemington.

“When you’re in the logistics business, efficiency is everything. And that is far from being efficient,” DeGesero said.

Though the bill was released from committee, it isn’t ready for a vote in the full Assembly as it was second-referenced to the State and Local Government Committee for consideration.

An identical version of the bill (S2546) has been introduced in the Senate but hasn’t been considered and is not on the agenda for its transportation committee meeting Monday.

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In addition to the MVC bill, lawmakers last week advanced bills that would force reforms at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s unemployment division. Both have been sources of exasperation for residents in the last two years.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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