If you enter the Legislative Office Building in downtown Sacramento, pass through security and hook an immediate left, then walk to the end of the hallway and take another right, at the end of that hallway is an unmarked door with a peephole.
Inside you will find the Capitol office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, an unlisted branch where elected officials can register their cars, renew their driver’s licenses — or apply for the new federally-mandated Real ID card that has been driving up wait times at DMV field offices across the state.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday, with an hour break at noon for lunch, in-person service is available by appointment, according to a brochure obtained by The Sacramento Bee. The office serves current and retired members of the Legislature and Congress; current legislative staff; employees of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislative Counsel and the Legislative Data Center; and elected and appointed officials.
It is also the primary point of contact for lawmakers who receive complaints from their constituents about the DMV, according to DMV spokesman Artemio Armenta.
“The staff of 2 handles roughly 10,000 requests annually working with members offices, DMV field offices and DMV Headquarters,” he wrote in an email. “Approximately ninety percent of the work performed by the two person staff deals with constituent problems, questions or concerns dealing with DMV issues.”
Though once situated in the basement of the Capitol and accessible to the public, the office was moved across the street in the 1990s for reasons that may have been lost to time.
On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers, at the urging of Gov. Jerry Brown, rejected an audit into the DMV’s handling of growing wait times for customers. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican who requested the audit, said “members of the Legislature have to practice staying in touch” with regular Californians.
“I don’t use the special privilege DMV that’s here. I have gotten my registration and all that stuff the old-fashioned way like everybody else in my district,” Patterson said in an interview. “When you are living a public life the way most private people live, you’ll understand when taxes hurt and bureaucracies hurt.”
The average wait time for service at DMV offices statewide jumped 46 percent this year, to 69 minutes. Armenta said the DMV does not have data on wait times for the Capitol office because it does not have the agency’s queue system installed.