Local News

Specialty license plates in Florida ‘keep coming’

TALLAHASSEE - Proponents of adding new specialty license plates to Florida's vehicles might approach a legislative roadblock in a couple of years. Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican who is expected to become Senate president in 2014, expressed displeasure this week with the proliferation of specialty tags as the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Subcommittee backed a new tag for Freemasonry (SB 274) and supported increasing the annual fee for the “Florida Wildflower” plate (SB 632). “We have a situation where some don't want to expand Medicaid, we're dealing with a $74 billion budget, yet it amazes me that we can get wrapped around the axle over $70,000 in a license plate,” said Gardiner, who is chairman of the subcommittee. The Legislature has made several efforts in recent years, including attempting a moratorium, to prevent new specialty plates. “But they keep coming,” Gardiner said before voting against increasing the annual fee on the wildflower plate from $10 to $25.
The fee comes on top of the standard registration fees all motorists must pay. The state already has 120 specialty tags that reflect causes ranging from the environment, education and the arts to families, religion, police, sports and the military. The Freemasonry plate would also require an annual $25 fee, with revenue going to the Masonic Home Endowment Fund, Inc. The wildflower bill in the Senate has gained a little controversy among veteran-related charities. A measure has been included within the bill, at the request of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs, that redirects a portion of proceeds on the sale of the “Florida Salutes Veterans” plates. Under the proposal, the Florida Veterans Foundations Inc. would have its allocation from the veterans plate grow from 10 percent to 20 percent. Meanwhile, money from the plate going to the State Homes for Veterans Trust Fund would drop 10 percent, an expected $59,077 a year shift in funding. The House version of the wildflower plate (HB 265), which does not include the veterans' plate funding, was approved 117-0 on Wednesday. With 15,497 plates already on the road showcasing wildflowers, increased fees could generate an additional $42,617 a year for the Florida Wildflower Foundation. Efforts are also slowly advancing to create the “Fallen Law Enforcement Officers” license plate (SB 712) and – on the House side - the “Sun, Sea, and Smiles” tag (HB 427), which would raise money for: the Florida Caribbean Charitable Foundation, Inc.; American Friends of Jamaica, Inc.; Haitian Neighborhood Center Sant La, Inc.; Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc.; Greater Caribbean American Cultural Coalition, Inc.; and Little Haiti Optimist Foundation, Inc. The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday backed the “Fallen Law Enforcement Officers” tag.