From Saturday’s paper:
As part of the state budget agreement, Oklahoma motor vehicle records will now cost $25 apiece – the highest fee for such records in the nation. Insurance companies use the records to set rates.
BY PAUL MONIES
A budget plan to more than double the price of driving records gives Oklahoma a new distinction: it now charges more than any other state.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1556, motor vehicle records will cost $25, up from $10. An additional fee of $2.50 remains for online sales by NIC Inc., the company that operates the state’s website. The online charge was not raised.
The bill now goes to Gov. Brad Henry, but the increase was part of the budget agreement finalized last week between the governor and legislative leaders.
Charges for motor vehicle records vary widely nationwide, according to a compilation of rates by public records publisher BRB Publications Inc. Rhode Island charges $19.50. New Mexico provides copies of the records for free, although it does charge $4.95 if they are ordered online.
More than 20 states charge extra fees for online access to the records.
Michael Sankey, president of BRB Publications and author of several books on motor vehicle records, said a handful of states increase the fees on those records each year.
It’s a money-making deal for states because the actual costs for motor vehicle records are far lower than what most states charge, he said.
The higher Oklahoma fees mean the state could make more than $30 million a year selling motor vehicle records to insurance companies, data brokers and employment verification firms. A fiscal analysis of SB 1556 prepared by legislative staff shows the increase could add $12 million to the state’s general fund and $6 million to a revolving fund for the state Department of Public Safety.
In the past five years, Oklahoma has brought in about $13 million each year for selling those records, according to records.
Included on the records are names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers and recent driving histories. The type of information sold is governed by the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act.
The act contains more than a dozen possible scenarios that allow numerous public and private organizations and individuals to obtain the records, but most of the buyers are insurance companies.
Jim Walker, a lobbyist for State Farm Insurance, said he heard earlier this year Oklahoma’s fee might be raised to $15. Walker said the company was “shocked” last week to see the fee raised to $25.
“This could ultimately translate into higher insurance rates,” Walker said.
Insurance companies use the driving history part of the records to set car insurance rates. Walker said Oklahoma’s higher fees could mean State Farm buys the records less frequently. That would give it less flexibility in setting rates for good drivers.
“If you’re a good driver, we don’t want to charge you the same as a bad driver,” Walker said.
UPDATE, 6/1/10: I went back and looked at Gov. Henry’s budget proposal from February and saw the following passage on Page 10:
Certified Copies of Driving Records
The State charges $10 to persons attaining a certified copy of a driver record. The Department of Public Safety forecasts that it will collect $10.6 million in FY-2011 at the current rate. This budget proposes doubling the fee for such copies to $20. This generates an additional $10.6 million in revenue for FY-2011.
Written by Paul Monies