Nixon seeking bids for license offices

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 2:35 p.m. CST; updated 4:21 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 14, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon's administration has started seeking competitive bids to run the state's vehicle and driver's license offices — entities that previously were awarded to political supporters.

Nixon said Wednesday that the Department of Revenue has started the bid process for six of the state's 183 privately run license offices. His new revenue director, Karen Mitchell, said she hopes to gradually bid out the rest by the end of the year.

Missouri governors traditionally have awarded the license offices to their political supporters. They have been called "fee offices" because the agents get to collect a fee each time they issue a vehicle or driver's license or collect sales tax on a vehicle.

"These offices became a way to reward political friends and contributors, not a way to deliver the best services to Missourians," Nixon said Wednesday. "The era of license patronage ends today."

Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt already had started bidding out some offices. Although Blunt awarded the license offices in the traditional manner when he took office in 2005, he later sought competitive bids as license offices became vacant. The 12 offices bid by Blunt's administration will be rebid by Nixon's Revenue Department.

Nixon said the first six offices being competitively bid under his administration are in Columbia, Liberty, Mexico, Moberly, St. Charles and Springfield. Those offices collected about $2.7 million in fees last fiscal year.

The former agent running the Mexico office closed it Jan. 2. But Nixon said he expects the rest to remain open during the roughly eight-week bid process. More offices will be announced for competitive bids in coming weeks, Mitchell said.

The contracts will be awarded for one year with a state renewal option for three additional years, she said. Bids will be evaluated on a point system that emphasizes customer service and efficiency.

Bidders can earn up to 45 points for efficiency, which includes such things as operating hours, facility layout and in-house tools for evaluating customer service. Thirty points are available for financial stability, reliability and past performance of the applicants.

Bidders can earn five points each if they agree to return some of the fees to the state, involve women- or minority-owned businesses, or involve civic or nonprofit organizations. Ten points can be awarded for oral presentations by bidders.

Nixon said he also supported legislation that would require competitive bids for the license offices, something that minority party Democrats have sought for several years.


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