A Republican state lawmaker is reviving the debate over specialty license plates one year after the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles suspended a gay youth group's plates.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said he wants to create an eight-member panel to review applications for specialty plates and limit the number of groups participating to 150. He cited other states, such as Maryland, where more than 700 groups get special recognition on license plates.
"What we want to do is have a fair system that holds the not-for-profit accountable," he said, adding that he wants to ensure the money raised by various groups through the program is spent properly.
Soliday, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, led an effort last year to limit the state's number of specialty plates. But it was overshadowed by a successful push by social conservatives to suspend the plates for the Indiana Youth Group, which counsels gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children.
The BMV last March suspended the group's plates, along with those for the Indiana 4-H Foundation and the Indiana Greenways Foundation, at the request of Senate Republicans. The 4-H Foundation and the Indiana Youth Group appealed their suspensions, but no decision has been made yet.
Indiana had approved plates for 88 groups as of the end of last year, and sold 481,092, said BMV Spokesman Dennis Rosebrough. From an administrative standpoint, it's not hard to make the plates, he said. The state no longer relies on the cumbersome metal stamping process that required BMV license branches to keep stockpiles of plates on hand.
"Now you walk in (to a branch office) and you say you want a Wabash college plate, that night the order goes in, and the next day your college plate is printed and the next day it goes in the mail and you got it," Rosebrough said.
Despite the battle over the gay youth group's plates, specialty plates are a popular item in the Legislature this year. Bills have been filed to make plates promoting the Indiana Dairy Association, fallen firefighters and recipients of the military's medal of valor.
Soliday said, however, there would be only one specialty plate bill to move this year: his.