House Oversight Committee questions DMV chief over driver’s license contract

Questions also raised about driver's license renewal changes that shouldn’t have been in state budget

Members of the House Oversight Committee seated at a meeting. North State Journal

RALEIGH — At an Oct. 11 hearing, the House Oversight and Reform Committee questioned Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Wayne Goodwin over a provision in the state budget on driver’s license renewals and the selection of a Canadian company to produce the licenses. Deputy Commissioner Portia Manley also appeared before the committee. Prior to being named head of the DMV in January 2022, Goodwin was the North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman and is also a former state legislator and insurance commissioner. 

“One purpose of oversight is to examine if department officials are complying with the law,” committee co-chair Rep. Jake Johnson (R-Polk) said in an opening statement. “We have to wonder whether this contract is even valid if the company cannot produce a legal state driver’s license. The speed and lack of oversight in awarding this contract also raise concerns related to the security of North Carolinians’ personally identifiable information.”  

The vendor chosen to produce the state’s driver’s licenses is CBN Technologies. CBN stands for Canada Bank Note and the company is based in Canada but also has offices in other locations.  

Goodwin referred to Session Law 2021-134 (H.B. 650) multiple times in his testimony in defense of the vendor selection process. That law allows the DMV to expedite certain projects by exempting them from the state’s Department of Information and Technology (DIT) oversight requirements.  

During the hearing, Goodwin indicated that there were very few vendors who did driver’s licenses or ID card printing and that most were “global” and most had offices in the United States.  

The committee members asked why CBN Secure Technologies was selected, specifically asking Goodwin to explain why the DMV exempted the project from DIT procurement oversight and did not use a competitive bidding process.   

Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe) spent his time questioning Goodwin about industry standards in printing driver’s licenses, whether the current contracted company was American or foreign, and about the new vendor allegedly only being able to print in black and white versus color.  

Goodwin said his division sent a request to N.C. Department of Transportation leadership about changing the state law requiring color photos. That request did not make it to lawmakers, who would have to sign off on such a change.  

In his answer on the black and white printing, Goodwin claimed that half of countries around the world have “gone to monochromatic” printing for better facial recognition purposes. He said CBN can do color but prefers not to because it “goes against industry standards,” which is apparently grayscale. 

Goodwin mentioned the military uses grayscale, which promoted questions from Rep. Allen Chesser (R-Nash), who held up his military ID printed in color.  

Chesser told Goodwin he wanted to know whether or not data was going to be firewalled while citing concerns about the data being accessed by countries that are not our allies like China. Goodwin responded that they were “following ISO standards.”  

ISO stands for International Standards Organization, an “an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 169 national standards bodies,” that creates global requirements for items like identification documents.  

When it came to data, Both Manley and Goodwin again said their agency was following agency guidelines.  

In an interview with North State Journal after the hearing, Chesser said he wasn’t satisfied and that “the answer we essentially got from them was I don’t know,” and that “we’ll follow up.” 

Johnson also indicated to North State Journal that the committee wasn’t satisfied and another hearing on both matters may occur. 

“It wasn’t necessarily the printing with the color and the grayscale, the simple fact was they were trying to say that we use black and white currently and we don’t. We use color. I just wanted to provide clarity,” Chesser said about Goodwin’s testimony over the driver’s license vendor selection. 

Chesser said he was concerned that Goodwin “was simply saying what he was told” and that his fear is that a substantial vetting process for personally identifiable information isn’t part of the equation. 

“My concern is similar to what happened when the federal government withdrew from Google for hosting federal data,” said Chesser. “If there’s not partitions in place or firewalls in place to segregate our data and keep it safe from outside access, then essentially the contracts no good for security purposes because any one of the employees in a foreign nation can access that information.”  

“And then what recourse does the State of North Carolina have to protect the citizens of North Carolina from that access being leaked in Europe or Canada or one of the other,” Chesser added. “According to him, 70 plus nations that could potentially have access to our information.”  

Goodwin was also asked about a legislative budget request that allegedly came from his office in February extending the eight-year license renewal period to 16 years for individuals ages 18 to 66.  

“The commissioner has provided little to back up his statements that 16-year license renewals do not comply with federal REAL ID requirements,” co-chair Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan) said ahead of the hearing. “To the extent that he is correct, it is not clear why it took until after he made the legislative request to learn this. We want to clear up the confusion.” 

The renewal provision made it into the finalized budget but since then Goodwin has indicated the extension is in violation of federal REAL ID requirements. As a result, technical corrections will have to be made to the budget. 

Congress established the Real ID Act in 2005 to make IDs like driver’s licenses and other ID cards acceptable for accessing federal facilities and accepted by the Transportation Safety Administration at airports. Implementation has been delayed multiple times since its passage with 2025 as the next deadline for REAL ID to take effect.  

Warren asked Goodwin when the DMV learned that the longer renewal period didn’t meet REAL ID requirements to which Goodwin responded it was sometime in March and that the provision had been removed from a related agency bill in April. Goodwin also said his agency did not request it be included in the budget.  

Goodwin was pressed about why legislators were not made aware if the issue prior to the budget becoming law by Rep. Jeff McNeely (R-Iredell).  

McNeely said it looked like a lack of communication to the budget chairs was perhaps part of the problem and would like to see Goodwin correct that in the future. Goodwin apologized for “miscommunication” with lawmakers and agreed that going forward he would notify as many people as possible.  

About A.P. Dillon 1137 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_