Lawmaker wants review of specialty plate proceeds

September 16, 2012

More oversight of Indiana's specialty license plates is needed to ensure that the groups who benefit spend the money appropriately, the chairman of a legislative panel reviewing the plates said.

The plates imply a state endorsement of those groups, state Rep. Ed. Soliday, R-Valparaiso, told The Times of Munster for a story Sunday.

Soliday, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is leading a panel of state lawmakers reviewing whether Indiana should keep, reduce or eliminate its group license plate program and looking at who should decide whether a group gets a plate.

Until this year, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles typically issued a specialty license plate once 500 motorists had pledged to buy it. Indiana has issued some 459,000 "group" license plates in more than 85 different designs supporting universities, community organizations and other causes.

However, after the BMV in January issued a plate for Indiana Youth Group, an Indianapolis-based gay rights organization, the Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted a law imposing a moratorium on new plates until July 2013.

Meanwhile, several conservative lawmakers worked behind the scenes to revoke the gay group's plate on a technicality that also canceled the plate supporting Indiana 4-H, The Times reported.

Oversight legislation that Soliday sponsored earlier this year was rewritten for the moratorium. He now plans to sponsor a bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in January that outlines the best process for issuing specialty plates and ensuring appropriate spending.

"My issues have nothing to do with what people want to do in their own bedroom," Soliday said.

Most of the specialty plates cost an extra $40, with $25 going to the cause. Leaders of several of those groups told the study committee this month that any effort to limit or terminate the specialty plate program would hurt their budgets because license plate sales are an essential component of their fundraising programs.

Some lawmakers believe the General Assembly, not the BMV, should decide which causes get specialty.

However, state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said putting the Legislature in charge will all but ensure partisan politics determines whether a group license plate is issued.

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