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.

“I think that’s a really good idea,” Baker told reporters. “This is 2019. There are plenty of people around there who are smart enough to figure out the technology. There is a national organization that maintains the [National Records Database] and we really ought to be able to get to the point where once that data comes in it should be able to ping the state from which the driver’s license originated so that people get that information right away.”

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.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

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.

“We think the work that people have done has just been first rate,” Baker said.

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.