Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

 

NH Senator Bob O'Dell

NH Senator Bob O’Dell

How long does it take for a customer to be waited on at one of the state’s 14 Division of Motor Vehicle offices?

With the exception of the Manchester office, customers had a wait time of less than eight minutes at six offices surveyed in a performance audit conducted by the Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant. The audit says “at least 80 percent of customers at all locations we visited noted the wait time was acceptable, including customers at the location (Manchester) where we observed the average wait time to be over 30 minutes.”

The audit report reflects real change and improvement at the Division of Motor Vehicles. A few ye

ars ago, citizen complaints about DMV service topped the list of frustrations people felt about state government. Today, it is more likely that a constituent will offer a com

pliment about DMV service.

Richard Bailey is the Director of DMV. Previously he was Commissioner of Information Tec

hnology which helps to explain how he has applied technology to the work of helping people get their drivers’ licenses, car registrations or titles. The last time I renewed my driver’s license, for example, I did it online.

But there is more involved than upgrades to technology. Internal processes have been improved and, very importantly, DMV uses a training curriculum to increase the competenc

e of employees along with their customer relations. It all seems to be working.

The DMV performance audit was presented to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday. One legislator, Sharon Nordgren (Hanover), expressed some concerns that people in the Lebanon-Hanover area have to go to the Claremont DMV office as the Lebanon office was closed

a couple of years ago due to budget constraints.Director Bailey understands the situation

and pointed out that there are several areas in the state where residents have to go longer distances to conduct DMV business because of office closures.

The report summary said “… the DMV’s customer service operations are generating positive responses from both customers and employees alike.” Director Bailey has turned the DMV around and his success underscores the potential of delivering services effectively at reas

onable cost in a manner that meets the needs of customers throughout state government.

The Fiscal Committee also received the nearly 500 page Single Audit of Federal Financial Assistance

Programs for the fiscal year that ended on June, 30, 2012.This annual audit, prepared by an independent auditor, KPMG, meets federal requirements that are tied to grants and other payments made to New Hampshire by Washington.

The state has 350 programs fully or partially paid for by the federal government. Those programs required 850 individual contracts or grants that provided New Hampshire with $1.8 b

illion last year.

To put that $1.8 billion number in perspective, in the same year, the state separately raised about $2.3 billion for our general and education trust funds. One can see that federal money makes up a very significant part of our overall state spending.

While state general fund and education trust fund spending has been held down by constrai

ned revenues and legislatures and governors keeping our biennial budgets balanced, federal spending in New Hampshire has increased. Federal spending will increase with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as Washington money will be used to set up the mechanisms to implement the subsidized health insurance program.That program kicks off on October 1.

Additional federal monies will become available when and if the state expands the number of peop

le on our Medicaid program. This federal state partnership program has been in place since the mid 1960s with costs divided roughly 50 – 50 between Washington and Concord.

If New Hampshire moves forward with expansion, under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 90 percent of the costs for the first few years for new enrollees. There are several options that the Governor and legislature must sort out soon if they wa

nt any elements of expanded Medicaid in the new budget that begins on July 1.

Federalis

m nowadays means state governments are very dependent on Washington and will increasingly be so when new programs like Obamacare come on line.

The Senate met on Thursday and acted on 60 bills. That is about one-third of the bills we have recei

ved from the House. Most of the bills were not controversial although a couple drew clear lines of division.

There

were 5 roll call votes that were 24 to zero. Why have a roll call when everyone supports the recommendation of the committee? There is a growing pattern to be on record on issues that are popular with constituent groups.

Here is an example: House Bill 509 passed the House and the Senate Executive Depar

tments and Administration recommended that the Senate pass it. The bill requires the Department of Administrative Services to continue to provide the New Hampshire Department of American Legion with office space.

There was no debate or discussion on the bill. It would have easily passed on a voice vote. But there was a call for a recorded roll call vote. The result was a unanimous vote to pass the bill. Now all Senators are ‘on record” supporting veterans. Would we have been less supportive with a voice vote?

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