Gunn to kill DMV reorganization plan pushed by secretary of state

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For AmericaMississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn during Legislative session at the Mississippi State Capitol Tuesday, February 4, 2020.
Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, quickly signaled his intentions to kill a plan that would move oversight of the state’s problem-riddled driver’s license bureaus from the Department of Public Safety to the Secretary of State’s office.
The plan, unveiled this week by newly-elected Secretary of State Michael Watson, was announced Tuesday at an 11 a.m. press conference that about one dozen House Republicans attended. By 5 p.m., the Republican speaker’s staff told Mississippi Today that the proposal does not have Gunn’s support.
“While the Speaker is committed to seeing improvements at the state’s drivers license bureaus, he does not support moving oversight of the services to the Secretary of State’s office,” said Emily Simmons, Gunn’s spokeswoman. “He believes the services can be best improved within the Department of Public Safety, with the ultimate goal being to make the process as efficient as possible for Mississippians.”
Watson, a Republican and former state senator who won the 2019 secretary of state election in a landslide, centered his successful campaign on DMV reform.
Gunn’s public resistance to the proposal this week all but kills it in the House, where the speaker’s position regularly makes or breaks major pieces of legislation. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The state’s driver’s license facilities have for months been plagued with long lines and wait times, and many often close with no advance notice due to short staffs. Mississippians report having to wait all day for simple services or having to come back another day when the bureaus close at 5 p.m.
Department of Public Safety leaders have long asked the Legislature for additional funding to bolster DMV service. Last year, department officials told