Legislation that prevents private organizations from getting specialty license plates faces a full Senate vote after being approved by the Senate Transportation Committee. The plan wouldn’t apply to current plates, and would only allow for new plates that benefit a state or local government agency.
“The real point here, from my perspective at least, is picking and choosing the winners and losers out there of who gets a plate,” said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, who supported the plan. Idaho has more than 40 specialty plates, as well as special plates for military veterans.
Amy Smith, the vehicle services manager for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), identified more than a dozen current plates that wouldn’t fit the criteria of the legislation, including those of private colleges and plates for Basque heritage, breast cancer awareness, and Appaloosa horses. Smith said the Basque heritage plate and a technology and science plate are likely to be phased out due to lack of demand. Specialty plates that don’t have 1,000 buyers over a five year span are discontinued.
Specialty plates cost an added $35 beyond the regular cost of an Idaho license plate, as well as a subsequent $25 annual fee. Some of that added money helps the state pay for highway construction projects, but most goes to support a public or private cause associated with the plate.
Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, was the lone member of the committee to oppose the plan. He said he favors more limits on specialty plates, but that the plan on the table goes too far. “There are groups and organizations that are using these plates successfully,” McGee said. He backed legislation in 2009 that would have put restrictions on new plates. That bill passed the Senate but not the House.
McGee also said he’s concerned that organizations could call for license plates that favor or oppose abortion rights, which he said would put pressure on lawmakers. Werk said such controversial plates could lead to lawsuits, which have started in other states.
Smith said she hasn’t heard of any such plate being proposed in Idaho, though ITD doesn’t have to approve proposed specialty plates.