House passes bill authorizing specialty license plates for Auburn University and the University of Georgia. Look for more down the road.
As the Florida Legislature goes into its last days, you’re probably asking yourself, “When, oh when, will Florida finally give us more specialty license plates?”
Am I right?
Okay, maybe I’m not right. But if you did say that, you’re in luck. The Florida House unanimously passed a bill Thursday authorizing 18 new specialty license plates.
And, reflecting the fact that many North Florida legislators operate under the mistaken belief that they live in Alabama or Georgia, included among these plates are salutes to both Auburn University and the University of Georgia.
Although this action would bring the tag office’s wall of specialty plates up to 140, the statute also caps the number of Florida specialty plates at 125.
Which is something of a cry for help from the legislators — “Stop us before we create any more of these!”
Oh, they’ve tried before. Legislators declared a moratorium on new specialty plates from 2008 to 2016. But that moratorium, like the Pirates Code, was more what you’d call a guideline than an actual rule. The number of plates over those years grew from 113 to 123.
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This year’s measure would create another brake on plate-proliferation by upping the minimum number of plate sales necessary to stay on the list from 1,000 to 3,000 tags a year.
But a lot of plates are exempted from that minimum – pro sports teams, some educational charities and all in-state colleges, including perennial last-place-in-sales Warner Southern College which sold a mere 94 plates in 2018.
Regardless of this restriction, opening the door to out-of-state university tags promises lots of new tag action in the future sessions.
Florida is a place full of people from somewhere else and many of them are true to their school.
Texas A&M, for instance, has seven Florida alumni clubs as does the University of Missouri. Commonwealth Avenue is many, many blocks away yet my beloved Boston University has not one but two South Florida alumni clubs. Which is why I suspect this decision will be a gift that keeps on giving. Yes, even though tag sales for out-of-state colleges must meet a higher 4,000-sales threshold to stay on the tag office wall.
And based on the legislative record, a few exceptions are likely to be made in future sessions.
I am old enough to remember when everyone used to have the same unadorned state license plate in two colors that only said “Florida” and “Sunshine State.”
The first number on the plate was a code that told you which county it was issued in. Volusia’s tags had an eight because, in the 1930s, we were the eighth-largest county. We’re now the 11th. Flagler’s plates had a 61.
This numbering system was little noted, so you felt you were in on little-known road lore if you were aware of it.
Now I look forward to the day when the technology is perfected so you can walk up to a kiosk that will spit out a plate made just for you with some seldom-shared interest. Your own micro-cause: The Florida WordStar Users Group, the Central Florida Sweet Potato Pie Appreciation Consortium, the Florida Inland Navigation District Chowder and Marching Society, Citizens for Air-Potato Vine Eradication . . . .
Or maybe just a blank plate with space for drawing in your own design.
My theory is that Florida needs a wider variety of car plates than other states because we lack much of a common identity. Many of us arrived recently, are still figuring out the place, and identify with things from back home. So, of course, we need the logos of out-of-state universities for our plates. And that’s just for starts.
If I were managing a tag office, I’d start looking at freeing up more wall space for the tags.