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Government Business Online, Will Long DMV Lines Be History?

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RALEIGH — TheNorth Carolina Senateapproved a bill Tuesday that would allow government agencies to accept debit and credit cards, as well as electronic fund transfers.

The bill opens the door to conducting all kinds of business online or over the phone. Renewing car tags could be one of the first services to come online. Many others could follow, like getting a hunting or fishing license, or paying taxes, court fees, and traffic tickets.

If electronic government comes to North Carolina, the endless lines at theDMVmay be a thing of the past.

"Suppose you're home at night at 10:00 and you're on the Internet, and realize that your plate needs to be renewed," says Carol Howard with the DMV. "It would be so easy to do it online with your credit card. You don't have to leave work to make a trip to the DMV office."

About ten other states, including Virginia, already offer services like car registration over the Web. Customers like Frank Kennedy say it is about time North Carolina caught up.

"It's very time consuming here," Kennedy said. "It's very light today as far as the lines, but to be able to do it online at any time at your convenience would be a great idea."

Senator Eric Reevessays the electronic government bill would turn paper-pushers into problem solvers.

"If they don't have to deal with me because I get through the system, then they get to deal with someone like my grandmother who may need the help," Reeves said.

The DMV is already involved in a pilot program with car dealers that would allow motorists to walk off the lot with their plates and registration. If the House passes the electronic government bill, other services could come online around January 2000. Photographer: Joe Anthony