Lawmakers Back New Specialty Tags, Higher Requirements
Lawmakers took steps Thursday that could cancel a fifth of the specialty license plates available in Florida but also advanced 26 more designs for motorists to pre-order.
House and Senate committees backed higher thresholds for plates to qualify to be produced and for the current 122 tags to remain on the road.
At the same time, the Senate Transportation and House Economic Affairs committees moved a wide range of tags toward pre-sale for Panhellenic organizations, non-profits, environmental endeavors and professional sports teams.
However, sponsors of the legislation don't expect many of the proposed plates to get near a new pre-sale requirement of 4,000 plates within two years, up from the current requirement of 1,000.
"The simple truth is most of these license plates will never see the road," Senate Transportation Chairman Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said after his committee meeting.
The proposal (SPB 7072 and HB 7079) also gives tags already on road until July 1, 2020, to maintain annual sales of 4,000.
Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, said the proposal should eliminate about 25 tags, making the production of each design more cost efficient.
"If there is over 4,000, that is not going be cost-prohibitive for the state to manage," Perry said.
Of the specialty tags now available, only 67 topped the 4,000 sales mark in 2014.
"The license plate program in Florida has kind of become a sideshow," Brandes said. "And so how do we begin to rein that in? Ultimately this is what we think will do that."
Many of the tags at the bottom of the list are for private colleges and universities, which are currently exempted from the minimum sale requirement.
The state recorded 105 sales of tags benefiting Warner Southern College last year, with Clearwater Christian College attracting 51 sales.
Brandes and Perry said lawmakers will eventually look at the college exemption.
Twelve tags that the House and Senate committees backed Thursday for pre-sale are Bonefish and Tarpon Trust; Rotary's Camp Florida; Support Down Syndrome to support Olivia’s Angels Foundation; Safe and Free Florida for the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; Support Our Constitution to raise money for pocket constitutions to distribute to students; Sun Sea Smiles for various scholarship programs; Take Stock in Children; Paddle Florida; Orlando City Soccer Club; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Ducks Unlimited Inc.; and Dogs Making a Difference, which raises money to train guide dogs.
Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, expressed confidence that her Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters will put that tag over the 4,000 threshold.
The Senate's proposal also included plates for Florida Bay Forever and Team Hammy, which grant wishes to families living with ALS. Senators on Thursday also added plates for rescue pets at Furry Friends of Florida, Inc., Save Our Shores Florida, Jacksonville Armada Football Club and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
House members added tags for the Dan Marino Foundation, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.
Brandes rejected a proposal to include the Dan Marino Foundation in the Senate package.
"We've generally had a policy where we don't include people's names on license plates," Brandes said. "We didn't do it last year with the Guy Harvey plate. A living person's name on a plate could be considered advertising. Guy Harvey sells shirts and he has resorts. Even if the (money) is going to save the coral reefs, the question is, is that the perception we want out there?"
The sale of specialty tags has dropped from 1,396,835 in 2010 to 1,302,351 last year, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Of seven additional tags currently available for pre-sale, only the Moffitt Cancer Center, which went on sale Oct. 1, has topped the 1,000 mark.
A plate for the Florida Sheriffs Association has sold 706, followed by 649 for Fallen Law Enforcement Officers. Both also went on sale last fall.
The University of Florida continues to be the state's top seller, with 88,805 sold in 2014, followed by Florida State University at 62,033, Helping Sea Turtles Survive at 62,017 and Protect Wild Dolphins at 51,211.