The Oklahoma Tax Commission is searching for a new leader after Gov. Kevin Stitt assigned former Executive Director Jay Doyle to oversee technology solutions for a backlog in driver’s licenses and identification cards.
Doyle, who took over at the Tax Commission in September 2019, will move to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. He will work with the state’s chief operating officer, Steve Harpe, to find ways to make Oklahoma’s disjointed systems for driver’s licenses work better.
Partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, Oklahomans have faced long lines and lengthy delays for the past year at Department of Public Safety offices and many tag agents to renew driver’s licenses or get Real ID cards.
To address the backlog in the short term, the Legislature appropriated $6.6 million for “mega centers” in Oklahoma City and Tulsa that will offer extended hours and more employees to help customers.
The Oklahoma City mega center is scheduled to open Monday, July 26 at the former Oklahoma State Department of Health location at NE 10 and Stonewall, said DPS spokeswoman Sarah Stewart. It will be open for walk-in customers only from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The mega center will have 20 workstations and will offer renewals and Real IDs for residents already with an Oklahoma driver’s license. Out-of-state transfers and first-time drivers will still need to go to DPS offices.
The Tulsa megacenter is scheduled to open on Aug. 16 at the Kensington Business Center at 7130 S. Lewis Ave. It will have the same hours as the Oklahoma City mega center.
“We are trying to keep it simple and not do the more complicated stuff. We hired temp employees to do the data entry part and we have DPS employees there to verify documents and do troubleshooting,” Stewart said. “We’re hopeful that having the mega centers will take the pressure off the DPS locations, so people who need to go to a DPS location will be able to get in now.”
The mega center employees have also received training to do online renewals during the downtimes at the centers. There’s currently about a two-month wait for Oklahomans who have renewed online, Stewart said.
“That should be getting drastically better in the near future,” she said.
For more than 90 years, Oklahoma has split licensing and other driver services among DPS offices and tag agents, whose appointments are approved by the Tax Commission. That blended model worked for decades but has come under pressure as more government services move online. The online system used by tag agents doesn’t completely line up with the one used by DPS. The long-delayed rollout of Real ID last year on a separate platform only exacerbated the technology problems.
Because of his leadership at the Tax Commission, Stitt and lawmakers asked Doyle to find a long-term solution to the license backlogs. Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee, and Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry, have led the legislative efforts to address the backlog.
“We know Oklahomans are frustrated by these delays and I am too,” Stitt said in a news release Thursday. “We must fix the immediate issues with our driver’s license process and transform the system to better serve Oklahomans in the future. This is a complex task, and Jay Doyle is the right leader for this mission. I appreciate Senator Hall, Representative Kerbs and all our legislative partners for their work to solve this challenge.”
Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.