A standoff is brewing between the Baker administration and the Legislature, after a much-anticipated hearing Monday over problems at the Registry of Motor Vehicles fell apart abruptly.
The hearing is on hold indefinitely after state transportation officials refused to share information with lawmakers, and key witnesses failed to appear.
The hearing was scheduled after the RMV detailed record-keeping problems that were revealed after the agency admitted it failed to suspend the license of a West Springfield truck driver who is now charged with causing a New Hampshire crash that killed seven motorcyclists.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the Joint Committee on Transportation that due to an ongoing independent audit of how the RMV handles notifications from other states regarding violations by Massachusetts drivers, the agency could not provide all the information requested by the committee. That audit got underway just about two weeks ago.
The refusal angered the chairs of the committee, including Democratic Sen. Joseph Boncore, of Winthrop.
"We do want to get to some answers," he said, "and it's frustrating that we won't be able to seemingly get to some of the answers of how the registry conducted itself and the systems in place, and the failure ... of those systems in place today."
Lawmakers want to know why the RMV did not act on a notification from Connecticut officials about a serious driving violation by the truck driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, shortly before he was involved in the deadly crash.
Pollack told the committee she'll provide the information they want, but just not now.
"We are happy to come back after the 30-day report is out and not only provide you with that report but additional background, and after the 60-day report," Pollack said. "So this is not about whether we will be cooperating with the oversight of this committee, but when."
The offer to return another time was of little solace to House Chair William Straus, a Democrat from Mattapoisett. He told reporters after the abbreviated hearing that the Legislature has a responsibility to make sure the driving public is safe.
"I think that responsibility is what drives us today and reflects our desire to get this information as soon as we can," he said.
The two chairs plan to meet with the speaker of the House and Senate president to determine their options, and the next course of action.
This story comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies, including The Public's Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.