PHIL WIELAND: Indiana needs fewer license plates -- and legislators

2013-02-01T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Indiana needs fewer license plates -- and legislators nwitimes.com
February 01, 2013 12:00 am

Leave it to the Indiana Legislature to try to solve a problem by making it worse.

A legislative study committee headed by Valpo's own Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Planet Zod, worked all summer on a plan to deal with the state's license plate schizophrenia. Drivers can choose from about 85 different plates honoring colleges and universities, military branches, professions, groups and noble concepts, such as applehood and mother pie.

The state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles was cranking out new plates almost as fast as politicians crank out new promises or the Indiana Legislature cranks out stupid ideas. Nobody seemed bothered by this until the Republicans discovered the plate for the Indiana Youth Group supported gay rights.

I'm not so sure they would have been so quick to react against a request for a plate supporting the KKK. In Indiana, I suspect a Klan plate would find more buyers than one supporting gay rights. The gay rights plate alerted the Legislature to the dire need for it to get involved in the BMV license plate approval process.

Enter Soliday and the summer study group to put together legislation bringing some sanity to this whole special plate nonsense. Eighty-five different license plates is roughly 84 too many. The committee had to have at least five members just to have enough fingers and toes to count all the plates.

I've written before how the plethora of plates is confusing and not very popular with police. People can show their support with a decal or a bumper sticker. Instead of eliminating all the needless plates, Soliday's committee apparently wants to control it by making it such a bureaucratic nightmare almost no one will even try.

Applicants would have to show that at least 500 Hoosiers would buy the plate, submit their organizing documents and three years of financial records and show evidence the $25 additional fee they will receive will be used to "benefit a general societal need." Too bad we can't use that criteria for deciding whether to keep the Legislature.

The applications would be reviewed by a bipartisan committee of legislators, who would make a recommendation to the BMV, which would be free to ignore the recommendation. I would not want to be the BMV director who "freely" ignored a recommendation of the Legislature come budget time.

Finally, before we have a special plate for every resident of the state, the study committee suggests putting a strict limit on the total to be allowed. Forget the 85 different plates. In the future, Hoosiers would have to get by with no more than 150, or one for each legislator.

OK, who's going to be the first to apply for a plate to honor the legislators?

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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