New Jersey motorists who are being driven to frustration by prolonged closures of Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) agencies may get some relief from legislation introduced in the State Senate.
State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25), a frequent MVC critic, has offered new legislation that aims to keep agency locations open. He said in a recent press statement that, under current operating procedures, an MVC agency closes for up to 14 days when a single employee tests positive for COVID-19.
“Every day we hear of another MVC agency that’s closing for two weeks because a single worker has COVID,” said Bucco. “Nobody else operates like that. Your grocery store doesn’t close for days or weeks every time a cashier tests positive. They sanitize, test, and get back to work safely without missing a beat.”
“There simply is no good excuse for the repeated disruption of service at our MVC agencies.”
‘All Measures Necessary’
New Jersey motorists had to grappled with closed MVC locations early in the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2020, MVC agencies reopened, and motorists complained of backlogged MVC sites, long lines, and repeated MVC agency closures due to employees contracting COVID-19.
Seven of New Jersey’s 39 MVC licensing and vehicle centers were listed as “closed due to COVID-19” on April 26 when Bucco announced his legislation and still remained closed.
The Morris County lawmaker’s bill would direct MVC’s chief administrator “to take all measures necessary to prevent the temporary closure of a commission agency due to the coronavirus and ensure that the commission and its agencies continue to provide services to customers.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we had to fight to get the Murphy administration to reopen the MVC, digitize services, and offer appointments to end the horrendous lines,” said Bucco. “Forcing the MVC to keep the doors open is the next step to help drivers get the consistent service they deserve across New Jersey.”
MVC Alternatives to Closures
Bucco said that if the temporary closure of an agency is necessary, the bill would require reasonable alternatives—including mobile units—be provided to customers at that agency location.
“With testing, masks, vaccines, and all of the other measures that are now out there, we believe lengthy MVC agency closures are excessive and unnecessary,” Bucco said. “If private sector businesses can remain open despite the challenges of COVID-19, we should expect nothing less of critical government services like the MVC.”
Bucco, who represents parts of Morris and Somerset counties, has offered other bills targeting problems at MVC agencies. In December 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation from Bucco aimed at alleviating long lines at MVC facilities across the Garden State. The legislation allowed new drivers who passed their road tests to drive for 60 days while waiting to get their probationary drivers’ licenses.
South Jersey Anger
A group of South Jersey GOP lawmakers likewise April 26 issued a statement demanding that south Jersey’s MVCs be open for all services.
“For nearly a year, the Murphy Administration and outgoing Commissioner Sue Fulton have left little but a trail of excuses on why the Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland County communities are without full services to the MVC,” wrote 1st Legislative District colleagues State Sen. Michael Testa, Assemblyman Erik Simonsen and Assemblyman Antwan McClellan. “South Jersey families are forced to travel hours and miles away from their own local MVC to complete routine tasks; such as registration and titles which cannot be completed online.”
They added: “Too often, many make the drive only to be frustrated with office closures due to failures to contain the spread of COVID-19 within state-run centers.”
The three lawmakers said Murphy “has fumbled the reopening of our state, which includes the ongoing closure of in-person government services.”
Testa said he planned to introduce legislation “to highlight the on-going failures of Governor Murphy to comprehend the day-to-day struggles of hardworking South Jersey families and small business that must sacrifice a day’s work to travel to the few vehicle centers that are over an hour away.”