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Politics

Bill Revamping License Office Contracts Signed Into Law

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If you’ve ever stood in line to get a new driver’s license, you probably had other things to think about besides who was operating that particular office, or how they were awarded the contract to do so in the first place. On Wednesday, Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation that dramatically alters the process by which Missouri chooses which groups or organizations run the state’s 183 license offices. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.

Surrounded by four state representatives—two Democrats and two Republicans—the governor signed into law two bills which change the way license offices are awarded contracts by the state.

The dozen or so local residents who had simply walked in to get a new driver’s license or motor vehicle license took a number and listened in as the governor explained to the press how the new system works.

"The process is simple. Each week, the office of administration puts out notices for six offices, and interested parties have five weeks to submit their bids. Every person or group that is interested in obtaining an office contract has to submit a detailed proposal that spells out exactly how they will run the office," Nixon said.

In the past, governors had the right to award such contracts to whomever they saw fit, including political allies and campaign donors. Critics of the old system say there was a definite conflict of interest.

This particular license office in Springfield is just one of 28 statewide that have already been awarded contracts through the new competitive bidding process, even though the legislation doesn’t officially take effect until August. The group that won this particular bid is a non-profit organization called Alternative Opportunities.

Missouri’s Department of Revenue oversees the bidding process. Nixon was joined by the department’s director, Karen King Mitchell. She said Missourians can view the details of the bidding process for free—including the actual bids and contracts—by going to the Office of Administration’s website: oa.mo.gov. From there, you can click on the link which reads: “OA Bids and Contracts Public Records.”

In his remarks, Nixon leaned heavily on the words “transparent,” “competitive,” and “open” to describe the new process, and said whoever wins the contracts from now on will be held accountable.

But the governor has been criticized by some members of the GOP for awarding at least two of the license office contracts to longtime donors of the Democratic Party. When asked how he’d like to respond to that criticism, Nixon said that Democrats and Republicans alike have been awarded contracts so far, and that the state is simply taking the best bids.

The governor said the time to submit proposals for 111 of the remaining license offices around the state has ended.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.