Long waits at OMV offices 'absolutely awful'

State Sen. Ed Murray recently spent more than three hours at the Office of Motor Vehicles on Veterans Boulevard in New Orleans.

“The wait time was absolutely awful,” Murray, D-New Orleans, said Thursday. “There was hardly anyone working.”

Louisiana’s long waits to renew driver’s licenses or obtain car tags have been well documented.

A report earlier this year from the Legislative Fiscal Office found wait times stretched as long as an hour and a half in some motor vehicle offices, following budget and staff reductions.

Murray and other members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee again voiced concerns over the issue during a meeting Thursday.

“It was absolutely awful,” Murray said. “Are we just not appropriating enough money?”

He said he got to the office at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 2:30 p.m.

“Some people had been in line before the place even opened, and they were still waiting,” he said.

The Legislative Fiscal Office report noted that the OMV’s staff had been slashed 23 percent between the 2009 and 2013 budget years — from 739 employees to 568.

Staci Hoyt, deputy assistant secretary for the agency, said she would look into Murray’s specific situation, but she noted that the staff reductions have had an impact.

“The customer influx depends,” she said, noting that OMV has been shuffling staff between offices in anticipation of busier times.

The long waits were brought up during an unrelated discussion and were not part of the Budget Committee’s agenda. Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, said he wants OMV to come back to the committee with a more complete overview, though nothing formal was set.

“I think there are concerns about motor vehicle offices throughout the state,” Fannin said. “We need to figure out what we can do to accommodate our citizens.”

Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-St. Francisville, said he also has fielded several complaints from constituents.

He said he thinks Baton Rouge residents are coming to the offices in his district, seeking shorter lines.

“They’re bogging us down,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .