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State Executive Talks About High-Level Problem Solving

The agency has been improving processes, among them a particularly visible issue.

Having just gone through “some significant scrutiny at the local, state and federal levels,” the executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) spoke with levity about a problem his agency has had to address, in part through technology.

Daniel Avitia told attendees at the Texas IT Leadership Forum last week in Austin that the agency could not have addressed the problem of counterfeit temporary license plates, which are paper tags issued via car dealerships at point of sale, without a strong IT team in place.

“Temp tags. Have y'all heard that? A little bit about temp tags: They're all over the place, especially Texas tags ... and had a big problem to fix. Huge,” he said. "I couldn't have done it without the team that I have today, without their creativity.”

Media outlets have reported the issue as large and impacting law enforcement and other entities. TxDMV has been working on it since the end of the 87th Legislative Session.

The Houston Chronicle reported: “It is a sorely needed upgrade, police have said for months, as Texas became the problem spot for paper tags nationally because of flaws in the temporary tag system. As a result of scam businesses gaining access and the ease at which someone could print their own Texas tag, at least 2 million fake Texas tags flooded the globe.”

The news report came last week after TxDMV announced that it has addressed the issue by creating a more secure system that will allow for better compliance and enforcement of laws and regulations. The improvements roll out Dec. 9, and they include typographical and layout changes.

Technical improvements include:
  • Tags have various data points.
  • Tags have embedded data and text.
  • Embedded data and text can be created only within TxDOT systems.

An agency white paper describes additional security measures that will be implemented to the eTAG system over the next months. These include:
  • The system will only allow vehicles with current inspections to be issued tags.
  • Multifactor authentication is being implemented.
  • Browser time out after a period of inactivity by the user.

In addition, “the department worked closely with law enforcement to provide the resources and data officers need to combat and investigate a range of vehicle crimes,” according to the white paper.

Solutions include:

At the end of the panel in which he participated, Avitia talked about agency professionals willingness to work on problem solutions.

”We run significant programs within our agencies. And when somebody says, ‘Well, that ain't gonna work,’ that's a non-starter for me as an executive,” Avitia said. “I don't want to know how it's not going to work [or] how it's always been done. Let's take away those limiting barriers for creativity, making sure that all options are on the table.”

Regarding the paper tag issue: “Nobody said, ‘Well we can't do that. We can't fix that.’ Guess what everybody said? ‘I hate that our agency is seen this way in the media. I want to fix this. Let's work at it together.’

“We're at the tail end of it, and I couldn't have done it without the IT shop that I have today. They're great.”
Rae D. DeShong is a Dallas-based staff writer and has written for The Dallas Morning News and worked as a community college administrator.