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Tired of waiting in line for hours to get a driver’s license? Texas lawmakers might help

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Railroad commissioner? County Court-at-Law judge? County tax assessor-collector? When you head to the polls, know what the responsibilities are of the positions on your ballot. Here's a brief explainer on some of the key elected positions in Texas

Need to get a driver’s license or renew one?

Better plan on waiting awhile at driver’s license centers, at least in North Texas. The wait can take hours.

State lawmakers say they hear the frustration Texans have with those long waits — and they are considering ways to try to make it better.

A plan by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to study whether the driver’s license program should be shifted from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is on Thursday’s agenda in the Texas House.

“Doing this study will make sure we aren’t simply transferring a bad program from one agency to another without making any substantive changes to help fix the current issues,” Birdwell has posted on Facebook.

Under his plan, that study would be due by September 2020, in order to give lawmakers time to craft a plan to shift the program during the 2021 legislative session. And if the study isn’t finished on time, the program automatically moves to the DMV in 2021.

Supporters say transferring the program to the DMV would let the DPS focus on other functions and could make the entire program more efficient. Critics worry that moving too fast could create long-term problems and swamp the DMV.

In Texas, home to more than 28 million residents, 20.3 million have a driver’s license and 3.2 million have a state-issued ID card, state records show.

At the Fort Worth Mega Center, it could take more than two and a half hours to get a license for the first time, according to DPS data obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request. And at the Fort Worth South location it could take nearly one and a half hours for the same license. In Lake Worth, it could take around two hours and in Hurst it could take about 1 hour, 45 minutes.

The DPS said that the majority of people who come into a DPS office could have avoided the long lines by renewing their license online.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said he hopes to reduce “frustrations people feel when they visit one of our state’s driver’s license offices.”

Another option for state lawmakers is a bill by state Rep. Ed Thompson, R-Pearland, which has passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

“Managing the demand for driver license services is a major undertaking, but even so wait times at driver license offices continue to increase,” according to a bill analysis for Thompson’s bill.

Under Thompson’s plan, the actual transfer to the Department of Motor Vehicles could happen Jan. 1, 2021.

Texas lawmakers have until May 27 to pass laws.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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