Lawmakers continue to wrangle over the size of the state’s specialty license plate program with just days left in the annual legislative session.
Two years after approving a major overhaul of the program, the House passed a Senate bill (SB 364) on Monday, March 7, and approved a change that would reduce the maximum number of plate designs at any one time from 150 to 135. In addition, the House plan would reduce a pre-sale benchmark from 4,000 to 3,000 for out-of-state college plaques to be approved for sale.
Representative Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, said the proposal “sets a bit of a standard as to what cap we’ll have on plates.” The House could vote on the revamped bill on Tuesday.
“This will allow anyone who wants to present an invoice in the future to have a special plate to give away and have the pre-sale period,” Rizo said. “And if the demand is there, people will have a say in their voices and be able to express themselves in the back of their cars all over Florida.”
The 2020 law set a cap of 150 special plates, compared to 123 currently in circulation. It also increased the number of most specialty plates from 1,000 to 3,000 that must be pre-sold before moving forward or for a design to stay on the road.
The law also opened plate design to three non-Florida schools: the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, and Auburn University. However, each out-of-state school had to reach a presale threshold of 4,000 within 24 months.
The Senate version of this year’s bill, approved by a 38-0 vote last week, sought to reduce the presale total to 2,500 for all plates and restart a 24-month clock to keep all plates on. presale list. The House would agree to restart the 24-month clock.
Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, said last week that the licensing tag program has suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID has arrived. It changed everything,” Perry said.
Under the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, an America the Beautiful label — tied to a Tampa program supporting military communities, including the development of playgrounds and other recreational areas outdoor recreation — would instantly exceed the pre-sale mark. The American Beautiful label was at 2,943 pre-sold Monday morning.
The Auburn plate is closest among out-of-state universities to the new goal lines under both proposals, with presales at 2,096. The Alabama tag has reached 1,412 presales while the Georgia plate is at 439.
Since the 2020 changes, the special plates for the Blue Angels, Coastal Conservation and Walt Disney World meet the new requirements. The House and Senate versions of the new bill would expand the Blue Angel plate offering to be available for motorcycles.
The Senate proposal would also allow pre-sales on the following specialty plate designs: Inter Miami CF, Safe Haven for Newborns, Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research, Learn to Fly, Florida Swims, Ethical Ecotourism, Down Syndrome Awareness and Gopher Tortoise.
Changes to the House have replaced Ethical Ecotourism with Focus on Children.
If the House approves the revised bill, the matter would return to the Senate. The legislative session is due to end on Friday.