BMV commissioner promises changes, praises new law meant to streamline fees

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 28, 2016) – The head of Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles said motorists should have new confidence in the agency, noting in a wide-ranging interview with FOX 59, change is happening behind the scenes.

Days after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the BMV Overhaul Bill, BMV Commissioner Kent Abernathy praised Indiana lawmakers.

“This legislation was huge,” he said. “I can’t underscore how significant this legislation was.”

In part symbolically, the measure is designed to help regain the public’s trust and simply the agency’s code, after an external audit revealed Hoosier motorists had been overcharged tens-of-millions of dollars from an agency that lacked oversight.

For example, the law will reduce the number of ways to register a vehicle in Indiana from 191 to 23.

“If we do make a mistake, we admit it, correct it quickly and we move on,” Abernathy said. “And that’s the big thing in building trust.”

Correcting the BMV is what Abernathy was appointed to do a year ago.

He’s implemented a policy, making it mandatory for all BMV employees to report any suspected errors.

Abernathy couldn’t give an exact number Monday, but said cases have been reported, investigated and resolved under the new policy.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he said. “So again a lot of them we take a look at, and it’s a little bit misleading on how many actually show up, and we take a look at because a lot of them are dismissed. And others are found just to be a simple coding error or something like that. The significant piece is we now have a process in place that if an error does occur, it doesn’t occur for a long period of time.”

Critics of the BMV Overhaul Bill criticized the measure for “last minute earmarks.”

“My Republican colleagues in the Statehouse shook my hand, looked me in the eyes, and told me HEA 1087 would pay back Hoosier taxpayers and fix this embarrassing flap at the BMV,” State Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) said in a statement. “Instead, they flat out lied to me and deceived the people we are elected to represent.”

But Pence said the law will reduce or eliminate 163 fees, consolidate vehicle-related weight classes and establish a one-time fee for motorcycle drivers.

“I challenged the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ensure the back office works as well as the front office, and today we’ve made great progress in doing just that as we sign into law House Enrolled Act 1087,” Pence said in a statement Thursday.

Abernathy said the overall process to fix the BMV will take several years.

The next big task, he said, is revamping the how the agency stores, collects and manages the data of Hoosier motorists, while maintaining privacy and security.

“It’s to more efficiently manage it,” he said. “It’s to more effectively collect and manage it and to make sure it’s consistent and accurate.”

This, Abernathy said, while working daily to maintain the public’s trust.

“We need to be accurate in what we do,” he said. “And sometimes if you make a mistake the best thing to do is say we made a mistake and we’re going to fix it.”