Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Idaho / Sesquicentennial to be celebrated with special license plate

Idaho will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, and the legislature has approved the creation of a specialty license plate to help extend the festivities. This measure came about just after the governor signed a proclamation to designate the Idaho Historical Society as the lead agency in charge of the program.

When sales of the plate begin, the proceeds will benefit individual county historical organizations around the state of Idaho.

Source: Standard-Examiner Mar. 7 article.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington / News: 4-H license plate will benefit 100K kids and volunteers

Washington's newly-approved 4-H license plate has the potential to benefit over 90,000 children and 10,000 adult volunteers in 4-H programs across the state.

The plate costs $40 above standard registration fees, with $28 going directly to fundraising efforts. 4-H hopes to see at least 3000 motorists choose the plate when it becomes available next year - a total that would raise over $100,000 annually.

Source: Tacoma News-Tribune Mar. 20 article.

California / News: Agriculture license plate almost fully grown

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has been promoting the idea of an agriculture-themed license plate for many years, and finally received legislative approval for it in 2010. In most other states, this would be pretty much the end of the story, and people would already be enjoying the use of "ag tags" (as they've been nicknamed).

But California has one of the highest thresholds for specialty plate production, requiring a minimum of 7500 pre-orders from interested parties before production can begin. The CDFA began this process in earnest as soon as their plate was approved.

Two years later, the CDFA has not yet reached their goal - but now they're reportedly very close, and are making a final push to get over the line by the April 6 deadline set by the state. They also gained some unexpected help from a generous donor who is offering to reimburse prospective buyers' extra registration costs for the first year of the new plate's use.

When it is finally released to the public, the plate will help to fund education and career programs in agriculture-related fields, as well as youth leadership programs.

Sources: Western Farm Press Mar. 2 article, CDFA info page.

California / News: Arts Council License Plate Aims for the Stars

The California Arts Council is hoping to vastly increase their current funding level by leaning heavily on their state's most marketable asset - Hollywood stars.

As part of a new program called "Create a State", the Council has enlisted a variety of entertainment icons to appear on electronic billboards around the state promoting the Arts license plate. The stars, being billed as "Arts Drivers", will (it is assumed) sport Arts plates on their personal transportation and help to promote them elsewhere. And it is a fairly impressive list: Robert Redford, Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Jack Black, Annette Bening, Tim Robbins, Harrison Ford, Russell Simmons, the Edge (of U2 fame), Vernon Davis (49ers player), and the cast of "Glee" to name just a few.

The plates earn $35 for the Arts Council each time they are registered, and $40 each time they're renewed. At the present rate of around 65,000 annual regs/renewals, they earn a minimum of $2.28 million per year (my calculation, on the conservative side). The Council would like to increase that figure greatly - up to one million plates a year, for a possible haul of over $35 million annually (again, my calculation). This would, if all goes well, raise the state's spending on arts programs to just over one dollar per capita.

In a calculated move, the Arts Council has also convinced a variety of car rental agencies and other operators of auto fleets to fit their vehicles with Arts plates as well. This is beneficial on two levels, in that the Council receives its cut while the business also earns a tax deduction by dint of their financial support for a non-profit group. Besides, the plates just look cooler than the plain old script plates, right?

 Sources: Los Angeles Times March 15 article, California Arts Council advocacy info.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wyoming / News: Over 5000 University license plates served

As of last week, the University of Wyoming has sold over 5000 of their distinctive yellow-on-brown license plates to motorists throughout the state. The plates are promoted by the UW Alumni Association and benefit the University's scholarship fund.

UW plates are hard to track overall highs for, because they are included (like almost all Wyoming plates) in the state's county-coding system. Hence, each county has its own "high" for the UW plate - the highest spotted at present is 1-481 in Natrona County. And that naturally doesn't account for personalized plates, which don't fit in any numbering system. So it's nice when the numbers for this sort of plate are provided to interested parties.

Sources: University of Wyoming news post, LicensePlates.cc Wyoming data.

Utah / News: Proposed MLK license plate avoids controversy, moves forward

After seemingly being derailed by criticism from his family, a bill for a license plate intended to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has gotten back on track and is continuing through the legislative process.

In question is House Bill 506, which found itself struggling after Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem) questioned language regarding the plate's fundraising goals, in which it was proposed that the money raised would be used for the promotion of "human rights" -- echoing the name of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Foundation that the plate will support.

Rep. Daw received a letter from Alveda King, MLK's niece, who expressed concerns that the Utah Foundation's chairman had testified to the House committee about his personal support for abortion rights. Ms. King urged the Utah House to address the issue of abortion, noting that her uncle would have denounced the practice and urging Utah to only honor the rights he did fight for. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake City), the bill's sponsor, advised that the proceeds were originally intended to help fund scholarships and civil rights awareness.

Hence, the bill was amended with Chavez-Houck's approval, so that the plate's proceeds can only support the promotion of "constitutional" and "inalienable rights" (like life, liberty and/or the pursuit of happiness). The amended bill has since passed the House and is now working its way through the Utah Senate.

Sources: Deseret News Mar. 5 story, Salt Lake Tribune Mar. 6 story.

Nevada / News: Silver State will license robots to drive

Gov. Sandoval escapes from the robot.
From the "brave new world" category comes news that Nevada is now allowing driverless robotic cars to travel its roadways legally. Just look for the bright red license plates, recently approved by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Part of an experiment in automation sponsored by Google, these cars have previously been traveling across the western United States for over 100,000 miles with human minders on board to take over in the event of any mishaps (only two of which have occurred in all those miles, both without injury or damage). While they've been used so far in the pursuit of better data for Google Maps, the eventual intent is to bring them to the mainstream public with the hope of reducing vehicle accidents.

Nevada's plan is to first register these types of vehicles with unmistakable red license plates during the testing phase, and then issue bright green license plates for approved technology at some point (probably many years) in the future. All automated cars currently being licensed for use in Nevada must carry a multi-million-dollar bond against potential damages, and must provide a detailed description of what is being tested.

Sources: Singularity Hub Feb. 22 story, Google news release, Nevada DMV news release.

Nebraska / News: Union Pacific license plate leaves the station

Rail fans and plate aficionados, unite! Nebraska-based fans of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum can officially purchase license plates advertising the institution, the state having just received their 500th pre-order for the proposed design. The good news comes just in time to help celebrate Union Pacific's 150th anniversary this year.

The plate does not provide any revenue to the museum itself (which is located just across the river from Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa) and also does not benefit Union Pacific financially. Rather, the plate is being used solely as a promotional tool by fans and friends of the museum to celebrate UP's sesquicentennial. In fact, employees of the railroad were given the first shot at ordering the new design.


Union Pacific has been an extremely important fixture in Nebraska history since its founding under the aegis of an act originally signed by Abraham Lincoln, helping to move new residents and raw materials into the state during its territorial days. The railroad's hub in Omaha has always been a major source of business income for Nebraska, especially now that UP is the nation's largest rail carrier.

Following Nebraska's long-awaited passage of specialty plate laws two years ago, the new UP plate is only the second such issue (excepting the separately-legislated University of Nebraska "Huskers" plates) to reach the 500-order mark following Creighton University's successful effort. Creighton now has over 900 plates on the roads since their issuance began last year.

Sources: Omaha World-Herald March 10 article, UPRRM news post.

USA / News: Gold Star plates for Gold Star families

Here's an interesting article from the New York Times about Gold Star license plates and the soldiers and families they are intended to honor. The author details his experiences in trying (and failing) to receive a Gold Star plate from the state of Idaho, and the history he uncovered in the process. Currently, 34 of the 50 states issue Gold Star plates in some form, often with very different requirements in place.

Source: New York Times March 18 article.

Arizona / News: Specialty plates still safe for now

Arizona Centennial license plate, now over 3000 issued.
A concerted effort by one Arizona state representative to abolish the state's popular specialty license plate program has been stymied.

Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) has been sponsoring a bill (HB 2313) in Arizona's House that, if passed, would abolish the creation and production of any future specialty plates, while allowing the current array of 60 designs to remain in production for five years and in use on vehicles indefinitely. The five-year limit would also apply to these plates' charity fundraising mission - after the time limit passes in 2017, any extra revenues from the remaining specialty plates on the road would go solely to the state's general fund.

Farley's reasoning is that the debate over whether to approve the design and mission of each new specialty plate takes valuable time and resources away from Arizona's legislature to work on other matters during each session. He also cites concerns from law enforcement that the vast number of different plates on the road make it difficult to decipher license numbers. However, it should be noted that Arizona has been among the most diligent states in regards to plate legibility, having redesigned a number of their specialty issues to improve contrast and even going so far as to ban the use of license plate frames that block the state name.

The bill's progress was halted by Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale), who blocked further action on the bill after support for it began to falter outside of committee. Ugenti is herself the sponsor of a bill that would create a specialty plate for "fallen heroes" in honor of Pat Tillman. Farley has vowed to continue his efforts, having discussed the possibility of attaching his measure to another bill currently making its way through Arizona's Senate.

Arizona's most recent additions to the specialty plate ranks include their Centennial issue (celebrating Arizona's 100 years as a state), the "One Plate at a Time" issue benefiting hunger relief, a plate supporting Boy Scouts of America, a "Friend of 8" plate sponsoring Arizona's PBS network, and an In God We Trust plate that "promotes the national motto" according to the state's description.

Sources: Tucson Citizen Feb. 24 article, Arizona MVD specialty plate listing, LicensePlates.cc Arizona data.