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Drivers Could Soon Have Fewer Choice Of Specialty Plate

Last updated on Thursday, February 23, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS)(WAVE 6) - Indiana drivers could soon have fewer choices in specialty plates at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

State lawmakers are moving forward legislation that would do away with the less popular plates and require more financial accountability for organizations that do have specialty plates.

The BMV currently offers 106 different license plates, and the agency sold 420,614 specialty plates in 2011.

A proposal from Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, would eliminate plates that sell fewer than 1,000 plates a year for two consecutive years.

"It's almost impossible to keep track of them. It's hard for the police," Soliday said. "Are we going to do every single not-for-profit, or do we want the more established (nonprofits) and keep a reasonable number of plates?"

Universities and government plates would be exempt under the proposed legislation, but it would affect dozens of charities, nonprofits and military organizations with specialty plates.

For example, the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault sold 419 plates in 2011 and 223 plates in 2010.

"The plate is very valuable to generate additional dollars because there's not enough money for services (for victims of rape)," said Kathy Williams of INCASA. "I don't understand the problem with the current system."

The legislation would also eliminate new plates released in 2012, including those from the Indiana Youth Group, Marine Foundation, Patriot Guard and the Indianapolis Zoological Society.

"That's $25,000 we're going to have eliminated from our budget," said Mary Byrne, executive director of the Indiana Youth Group, which released a plate benefiting gay youths this year.

"At the stroke of a pen, tens of thousands of dollars in investments would be wiped out," said Charlie Hyde with the Indianapolis Zoo. "That's hundreds of hours of advocacy and cultivation and education about our license plates. Printed materials would have to be destroyed."

Despite protests from those groups and other organizations, the proposal passed the House Roads and Transportation committee by an 8-2 vote Wednesday.

Current law states that a plate must sell 2,000 plates over a four-year period, but the last time the BMV stopped issuing a specialty plate was in 2006 when they stopped offering plates for the Indiana Food Bank, the Mental Health Association and the Literacy Foundation.

Lawmakers say they're concerned about hurting charities, but that they want more accountability when it comes to tracking where the money goes that's generated from specialty plates.

Last year, the BMV distributed $10.9 million to organizations for their specialty plates.

"Why is the government even involved in collecting money for not-for-profits?" Soliday asked. "We are using taxpayer money to keep track of all this stuff."

Under Soliday's proposal, organizations would have to provide more detailed financial information, such as tax statements and proof of audit, and organizations would need to reapply to the legislature for approval starting in 2013

Bill 327 will now head to the full House for consideration.

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