Opinion

We support Upthegrove bill to cut down lines, hassle, at Department of Licensing offices: Editorial

Go to nearly any state Department of Licensing office in Puget Sound and you’ll see the crowds.

Kent’s office is no different: if you need a driving exam, brace yourself for a long wait. It’s a poignant symbol of just how slow and painful Big Government can be. Take your number, sit in a plastic chair and wait for someone to summon you. You can spend the better part of a morning just sitting.

This is not customer service.

For that reason alone, we are endorsing a bill introduced this week by our own State Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines.

House Bill 1635 seeks to cut down on the lines and the wait by allowing our state’s private driving schools to begin offering driving exams. That’s right: it’s taking something that frankly the state doesn’t do very efficiently and putting it into the hands of private companies that can.

The bill wouldn’t actually give private companies the right to hand out licenses – it would just contract out a function that right now bogs down DOL offices. The state would still issue the license, but driving schools would issue the certificate showing the driver has passed the exam. DOL would be in charge of overseeing how the exams are administered, to ensure a smooth transition between the private and public entities.

This kind of move, no doubt, will raise the ire of DOL employees concerned about the future of their jobs, but Upthegrove said he is optimistic the bill would not lead to major job cuts in DOL offices.

“I support collective bargaining,” Upthegrove said of DOL employees. “I think we can keep most of these jobs.”

DOL offices do more than just provide driving exams. They generate a variety of permits and identification cards, in addition to the work they could pick up administering the private-sector exams, should this bill pass.

The bill also caps what a driving school could charge for providing this service: a maximum of $25. Given the free market, this cost may actually go down. Costs going down are pretty much unheard of in the public sector.

We think this bill is a good idea on multiple fronts.

First, as mentioned above, it seems a no-brainer that it would speed things up to contract out for driving-exam services. There are 160 private driving schools in the state, versus about 30 state drivers’ license offices. And private enterprise frankly seems a lot more attuned to customer service than government does.

Secondly, this seems an excellent example of supporting private industry. In recent years, the state has taken its lumps for not being more proactive about private-business needs and the increasing cost of doing business here. Our small businesses are what keep our state economy afloat, and this bill is a gesture toward that spirit of good will that needs to exist between our private and public sectors. And in this regard, a third party – we drivers – stand to win too, with more choices and less-arduous wait times.

Thirdly, we see this bill as a harbinger of things to come. We talk a lot about Big Government, how we need to streamline its processes and its costs. In this age of shrinking budgets, it must happen. This bill is a fitting example doing just that.

Join us in supporting House Bill 1635.

Register your feelings on this measure by calling the Washington Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or e-mail your point of view to Upthegrove at dave.upthegrove@leg.wa.gov.

(Kent Reporter Editorials are the consensus of Publisher Polly Shepherd and Editor Laura Pierce. Send your viewpoints on this column to editor@kentreporter.com, or via mail to: Kent Reporter, 19426 68th Ave. S., Kent, WA)

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