State number plates need more scrutiny

Over the years, the local Legislature has approved of over 100 specialised number plates, ranging from specialist plates to raise money for the homeless to specialist plates for conservation projects.

The most popular number plates are army veterans plates, which have accounted for over 40% of sales.

Also popular are the INDY number plates which the state issued, accounting for 25% of sales.

The state collects $1.3 million a year from the special plates.

This is a fun way to make an automobile stand out for those not vain enough for a vanity plate.

Anymore, vanity plates are a collection of coded consonants that leave other drivers trying to decipher the message.

But while the specialty plates have become a very popular way to raise money for both the state government and outside organizations, they have become a nuisance and a distraction for lawmakers.

One proposal calls for having the Division of Motor Vehicles handle the requests for new categories of specialty plates. The Legislature would still be allowed to issue such plates.

The proposal would set criteria for the DMV, including a requirement to have at least 250 applicants. Commercial products and brand names would not be allowed. Number plates that push a political party or a specific social belief would be banned, as would a plate that promotes a specific religion.

Logos would have to be inoffensive and must not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.

These are sensible restrictions.

However, the Legislature must make it clear that special number plates are not a form of free speech. They are simply a way to raise money for the state and for civic groups.

If a person wants to send a message; that is what bumper stickers are for.

Other states have faced litigation over specialty number plates. The state government does not need to be dragged into court over something as minor as this. Written properly, the law could turn over to the DMV a task that it should have been doing all along.

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