Baker backs Moulton’s RMV proposal
Defends how administration handled audit
ONCE SEEN AS POTENTIAL RIVALS, Congressman Seth Moulton and his North Shore neighbor Gov. Charlie Baker are rowing in the same direction on how to prevent a repeat of the bureaucratic nightmare at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Notifications about infractions Massachusetts drivers committed in other states piled up unaddressed at the registry over a period of years, and Bay State regulators didn’t alert their counterparts about driving incidents that happened here.
Massachusetts is not alone in having a deficient system for sharing driver data, and state officials have recently taken up the cause to improve the system nationwide. As Baker noted Monday, the National Records Database handles input from around the country, but it doesn’t alert states when their drivers have gotten into trouble in other jurisdictions.
Moulton, a Salem Democrat, has proposed freeing up federal funding to help states communicate with each other better about licensed drivers. Baker, a Swampscott Republican, said on Monday that he likes that approach.
The long-festering problem was uncovered by top Baker administration officials after a Massachusetts truck driver killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire more than a month after a Connecticut arrest that should have resulted in a license suspension. Connecticut sent over the information, but Massachusetts failed to act on it.
Last week, the Massachusetts RMV disclosed that its Rhode Island counterpart planned to send over 22,500 records that it had not yet shared with Massachusetts, and on Monday, Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard said the RMV has no evidence that Rhode Island has ever sent Massachusetts notifications about its drivers’ violations.
When asked about Rhode Island’s past failure to share its information, Baker didn’t criticize his Ocean State neighbors, but instead explained how Massachusetts has been undertaking the massive task of checking all 5.2 million driver records against the national database, which should turn up incidents that occurred in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island had been sending its data to the national database, but not to Massachusetts, and officials there evidentially didn’t see much distinction between the two destinations because a spokesman for the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles described the 22,500 documents shipped to Massachusetts as “duplicate notifications.”
On Oct. 4, Massachusetts received the paper notifications from Rhode Island, which are labeled as having been printed on Sept. 23, according to MassDOT.
Baker also defended the approach to an audit commissioned by his administration that identified several structural problems within the department. The Boston Herald reported that MassDOT lawyers had refused to provide more than 53,000 documents to the Grant Thornton auditors.Baker said that Grant Thornton looked at 4.3 million documents, and noted the administration had sent nearly 1 million pages to the Transportation Committee, which is conducting its own investigation.
But Rep. Williams Straus, the House chairman of the Transportation Committee, said the 970,000 pages aren’t that easy to review because they electronic documents were not shared in a searchable format.