DPS’ mobile driver’s license program delayed until next year, will not meet statutory deadline

Agency head attributes delays to federal requirements, unrealistic deadline from lawmakers
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While waiting for a driver’s license in Mississippi has improved significantly, from 90 minutes on average last year to 21 minutes now, residents will have to wait even longer to get that ID in digital form, even though state law indicates it must be designed and implemented by July 1.

“Often those kind of deadlines are put in legislation. And even from my days in the Legislature, we put them there, but we understand, sometimes it takes a little longer for the nuts and bolts, to get it completed,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said. “When they passed the legislation, a lot of these things weren’t thought out. And sometimes it just takes a little bit longer than the legislature might have planned or thought of.”

Tindell said the agency could have just scanned licenses and offered that as a stopgap to meet the legislative requirement, but he wanted the mobile ID system to be far more secure and less susceptible to identity theft or hacking fears.

“Mobile ID in the form that we’re doing it in, that is less of a concern,” Tindell said. “It’ll be an app on your phone and require a personal password.”

Tindell told 3 On Your Side he interpreted the statute as meaning a plan needed to be underway by that date, not a finalized product.

“This legislation passed in October of last year, because of the extended session. It really only gave us, I mean, we’re still not really, I guess we’re about seven months into it at this point,” Tindell said.

Legislative records tell a different story, however.

House Bill 1371 was signed into law in July of last year, not October, which ultimately gives DPS nearly a full year to implement this mobile driver’s license program.

Tindell said the average timeframe for other states has been 18 months, though, and he atrributes part of the delay to the federal government.

The bill’s author, State Rep. Chris Busby (R-Jackson County), agrees with that assessment.

“The federal government continues to push back the requirements for REAL ID and that now has been pushed back to May of 2023. And the more that gets pushed back, the more opportunity there is for changes to that program,” Busby said.

That deadline applies to U.S. residents, though it could be just as easily applied to states required to comply with the federal initiative.

Busby said DPS has already sent out a request for proposals and hopes to have a contract in place by July.

Tindell said speeding up the timeline could also end up costing more in the long run, because a limited number of firms offer these services.

“We felt like it was the best use of the taxpayers’ money to put forth a good affordable plan and work towards the future,” Tindell said.

Busby said DPS tentatively hopes to have the mobile ID program in place by the first or second quarter of next year.

“It’s time that Mississippi does a little forward thinking, and gets ahead of the curve on a few things,” Busby said.

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