"Lawmaker Asks Ken Paxton to Weigh In on Car Registration Debate" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Amid a turf battle between the state's Department of Motor Vehicles and some Texas counties over who should handle vehicle registration renewals, a state lawmaker has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat, asked Paxton Friday if the DMV has the authority to offer vehicle registration renewal services. Nearly a month ago, the DMV board approved a plan to create an online registration system that would consolidate the renewal process statewide.
Currently, the DMV itself rarely handles registration renewal services. Instead, county tax assessor-collectors — or private title service companies that some counties contract with — fill this role. While the DMV predicts their plan will make registration renewals easier, county officials have expressed concern that the system will divert funds from the county to the state.
"Specific statutory authority to print and mail registration insignia is not expressly granted to any entity in the Transportation Code," Pickett wrote in his request for opinion. "For online registration renewals, department rules currently assign the printing and mailing of registration insignia as a duty of the county assessor-collector."
Pickett also asked Paxton if a contract between DMV and a private vendor to offer these services would have to be approved by individual counties. The DMV plans to have Xerox, with which it already contracts to produce renewal notices, handle the printing and mailing of registration stickers statewide once the online system processes the renewal request, according to DMV Spokesman Adam Shaivitz.
"While the Transportation Code does not establish a specific system for the department to contract with a private vendor to provide registration services, the code does establish such a system for county assessor-collectors," Pickett wrote. "A county assessor-collector may, with the approval of the commissioners court, deputize a business entity to provide registration services and 'contract with a private entity to enable an applicant for registration to use an electronic off-premises location,' such as an online system."
The DMV's plan would also increase the cost of some vehicle registration fees, tacking a $4.75 processing and handling fee onto renewals done in person or through the mail. The fee would not apply to online transactions.
"We very much respect the working relationship we have built over the years with Chairman Pickett and appreciate his continued leadership," Shaivitz said. "TxDMV will be working to provide the necessary information to the Office of the Attorney General to assist with its research on this matter."
Tax assessor-collectors in Travis, Bexar, El Paso and Hidalgo counties currently contract with title service companies to handle some registration and titling services. The DMV board also adopted a cap on what these companies can charge for their services, a move some in the industry have predicted would put them out of business.
Rep. Joe Pickett's Request for Opinion