Walz says state should pull plug on troubled MNLARS system

AP image - Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz says the state should pull the plug on the troubled vehicle registration system known as MNLARS and replace it with commercial software used by other states.

Posted: May 1, 2019 3:05 PM
Updated: May 1, 2019 8:25 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota should pull the plug on its troubled vehicle registration system and replace it quickly with commercial software used by other 12 states, Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday as he accepted the findings of outside experts who said it's not worth putting further resources into a system that never fully recovered from its failed launch in 2017.

While replacing MNLARS, which state agencies developed in-house, with a turnkey "packaged software solution" will cost more in the short run, the experts said there are fewer risks in switching to an outside vendor than in trying to complete the necessary fixes internally.

"I understand this is a pretty drastic course of action," Walz said at a news conference.

Altogether, Walz acknowledged, taxpayers are going to be out around $186 million, including over $100 million that the state has already spent on developing MNLARS over more than a decade. But legislative leaders from both parties, including some harsh MNLARS critics, welcomed the governor's decision and said they're ready to work out the details of authorizing the switch.

The system's shortcomings since it went live have caused heartburn for vehicle buyers, sellers and owners, and especially for deputy registrars — independent contractors who issue license plates and tabs and transfer titles. The system can now perform most basic functions but significant problems persist.

MNLARS has also been the subject of a critical report by the state's legislative auditor. Officials said Wednesday that not all money spent in MNLARS has been wasted because the data can be migrated to the new system. But the state has little else to show for the effort.

Rick King, the executive vice president for operations at Thompson Reuters who led the review team, said they recommended continuing work on MNLARS only until an update is released next month, then freezing it in "maintenance mode" so that the only future work would be bug fixes. Meanwhile, the state would expedite the procurement and implementation of the replacement system.

"The review team believes its recommendations are the best go-forward plan for the state, and provide the most future-proofing possible," King said.

King added that the team believes that the vendor could have a system ready to replace MNLARS within 16 months, with about 10 more months needed to replace other old software still operating alongside MNLARS. He also said they're "sensitive" to the additional burdens that the changeover will put on the deputy registrars, who "performed miracles out there in the field with the real customers standing in front of them waiting," and the state employees who support them.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the Democratic governor "really led" on a problem that was "dropped in his lap" when he took office in January.

"This is bold," Gazelka said. "It bodes well for Minnesota. We've got a lot other things we have to tackle, but this is a big one."

"We really feel today we've turned the corner, both technologically and politically," said Democratic Rep. Frank Hornstein, who chairs the House transportation committee. "We're all on the same page."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 62303

Reported Deaths: 1724
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19677840
Ramsey7775269
Dakota4558106
Anoka3792115
Stearns291320
Washington219247
Olmsted178123
Nobles17736
Scott160822
Mower11072
Rice10428
Blue Earth9415
Wright9035
Carver8903
Clay79240
Sherburne73710
Kandiyohi7051
St. Louis60020
Todd4292
Lyon4253
Freeborn3601
Nicollet35113
Steele3512
Watonwan3281
Benton3233
Winona26516
Beltrami2490
Crow Wing24614
Le Sueur2301
Martin2095
McLeod2080
Chisago2071
Goodhue2029
Otter Tail1983
Cottonwood1770
Becker1611
Pipestone1589
Polk1564
Waseca1490
Itasca14612
Carlton1450
Douglas1442
Unassigned13346
Dodge1310
Isanti1310
Pine1290
Murray1241
Chippewa1091
Morrison931
Wabasha920
Brown892
Faribault890
Meeker872
Rock850
Sibley842
Koochiching803
Jackson790
Cass762
Pennington751
Mille Lacs723
Fillmore710
Renville675
Lincoln590
Grant563
Swift551
Roseau530
Yellow Medicine520
Pope480
Houston440
Aitkin401
Norman400
Kanabec372
Redwood360
Hubbard350
Wilkin353
Marshall290
Mahnomen271
Wadena270
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake220
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse110
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49830

Reported Deaths: 948
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10535208
Woodbury375452
Black Hawk318066
Linn244588
Johnson212320
Dallas191335
Buena Vista179712
Scott175814
Dubuque172231
Marshall145226
Pottawattamie135029
Story118115
Wapello92733
Muscatine85748
Webster8428
Crawford7363
Sioux6503
Cerro Gordo64417
Warren5821
Tama55629
Jasper48427
Wright4781
Plymouth47412
Clinton4214
Dickinson3854
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2663
Hamilton2521
Franklin24812
Bremer2317
Clarke2063
Clay2031
Carroll1962
Des Moines1942
Emmet1934
Shelby1871
Hardin1850
Marion1770
Floyd1633
Benton1601
Poweshiek1598
Allamakee1584
Jackson1581
Mahaska14217
Guthrie1375
Henry1364
Cedar1351
Jones1342
Buchanan1301
Butler1272
Madison1272
Delaware1231
Hancock1232
Humboldt1221
Lee1214
Lyon1192
Pocahontas1182
Cherokee1101
Harrison1101
Clayton1083
Taylor1000
Iowa971
Winneshiek971
Page960
Kossuth950
Mills931
Monona910
Palo Alto900
Winnebago890
Jefferson870
Calhoun862
Fayette860
Sac860
Osceola850
Cass821
Grundy821
Mitchell800
Union781
Monroe748
Lucas734
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Davis612
Montgomery604
Chickasaw560
Appanoose523
Howard500
Fremont440
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Keokuk391
Van Buren361
Adair340
Ida320
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