Sisolak signs bill to aid third-party DMV services businesses hurt by prior policy change

Third-party document preparation businesses that help customers complete certain DMV transactions — and were affected by a policy change the agency made last year — will again have certainty about their business operations after a bill became law earlier this month.

Gov. Steve Sisolak last week signed AB288, which requires DMV offices in large counties to restore a “stand-by” window for third-party businesses that act as a go-between for those who do not want to, or do not have time to, personally go to the DMV to process new license plates, renew their vehicle registration or carry out other transactions. The businesses are particularly common in neighborhoods with heavy immigrant populations.

In March 2018, the DMV in Las Vegas eliminated the stand-by window, arguing that it needed the window to serve regular customers. The agency replaced it with another one called a drop-off window where businesses could leave documents but did not interact with a DMV employee face-to-face and thus could not personally assure their clients’ transactions — often submitted close to deadline — were completed on the same day.

Document preparation business employees with large numbers of transactions could make appointments at regular service windows like the general public, but were limited to short windows of time to address their concerns. In light of the changes, owners of document preparation businesses organized to petition their legislative representatives for help.

“My business currently has eight locations. We used to have nine, but we actually had to close one down because of what happened with the DMV within the last year,” said Rafael Arroyo, president of the Association of Registration Services and owner of Smog Plus DMV Services, a business that opened its doors in Las Vegas in 2008.

The DMV said last year that some of the third-party businesses presented themselves to the public as if they were actually DMV offices, enjoyed a significant profit margin and were offering services that could be done through the DMV’s website for free.

“Our primary concern is these sites or locations can cause confusion,” the agency said in a statement in 2018, “especially among seniors or Nevadans whose primary language is not English.”

The businesses, however, contend that they’re saving customers time and offering an alternative to those uncomfortable interacting with a government agency. Proprietors also note that they must also have a license to prepare documents from the secretary of state of Nevada.

“We’re licensed document preparation services and we have to have a business license … to get a fingerprint background check,” Arroyo said. “There’s a $50,000 bond. So there is some protection here for the consumer.”

AB288 also has other provisions designed to improve immigrants’ experience at the DMV. It requires that if a county has at least 5 percent of residents who speak a language other than English and have limited English proficiency, the DMV must have an employee who speaks that language.

Before reaching the governor’s desk, AB288 was amended several times.

“I think it turned out great,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, the bill’s sponsor. “I’m very excited because this is important legislation, especially for these businesses that are mostly owned by women and minorities.”

The bill is effective June 3 for purposes of regulation and on Oct. 1 for all other purposes.

Spiegel added that during the legislative process, all parties including the secretary of state worked to reach an agreement that ultimately could benefit everyone.

“They’re good, hardworking people who want to be providing service for people in Nevada and doing the best that they can for their customers,” Spiegel said of the DMV services businesses.