State works to reduce long lines at driver’s license stations

Published 9:37 pm Friday, September 13, 2019

The head of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety told lawmakers Friday that his agency is working to reduce long waiting times at driver’s license offices.

Commissioner Marshall Fisher said the department has increased the starting salaries for driver’s license examiners from $21,000 to $25,000 and is hiring more people to fill the jobs.

The department has also started a “wait anywhere” test project, letting people go online to schedule appointments for driver’s license testing at six offices — two each in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.

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Fisher was among the agency directors invited to speak Friday to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Top lawmakers are starting to look at spending requests for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Wildlife officials said they want money to renovate outdated facilities at state parks. Education officials said they want to hire more literacy coaches.

Community college officials are requesting money to enhance career technical education. The court system is requesting money to give pay raises to judges.

Legislators told Fisher they had received complaints from people about long lines at driver’s license stations.

“In my entire career, I’ve never found anything more frustrating than dealing with this driver services issue,” Fisher said.

House Speaker Philip Gunn said he has spoken to lawmakers from other states that have similar problems.

He asked Fisher if legislators could tweak some laws or eliminate some regulations to help ease the problem in Mississippi.

“I’ve been to some of the stations where people are waiting four or five hours,” said Gunn, a Republican from Clinton. “It’s frustrating for them. It’s frustrating for you. But I also think about the lack of productivity of these people missing work.”

Fisher said that in 2012, the department had 200 people working in driver services, and that number had dropped to 120 by this summer.

He said the department has 57 vacancies for those jobs, and he estimated that 600 to 1,000 people have applied. The hiring process includes a background check.

Fisher said the department hired 10 driver’s license examiners Sept. 1, and another 23 should be on the job by October.

Fisher said the old computer system for issuing driver’s licenses stopped working in December.

He said the new system is slower because of homeland security requirements set by the federal government.

Under the old system, an examiner could take care of 100 customers a day, he said, but under the new system, the maximum is about 40.