An administrative judge's recent ruling on specialty license plates for the Indiana Youth Group gave the plates a temporary reprieve, but the ruling also offers a reminder of the difference between policy and politics.
Sales of the Indiana Youth Group license plates were suspended in March 2012 after 20 state legislators signed a letter to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles on the last day of that legislative session, requesting immediate suspension of the group's license plates.
The legislators' letter alleged the Indiana Youth Group and two other organizations were improperly selling low-numbered plates.
The administrative law judge at the BMV ruled the group's actions -- using the low-numbered plates as thank-you gifts associated with different levels of giving -- wasn't selling or auctioning the plates.
So the BMV was wrong to suspend sales of the plates immediately instead of giving the Indiana Youth Group 30 days notice to set things right or defend its actions.
"While the politics may not have been on our side through this process, we were always confident the facts were," said Mary Byrne, the group's executive director.
The Indiana Youth Group is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that serves self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths.
Would the conservative lawmakers have written the letter if the group were using the specialty plates to raise money for widows and orphans instead of gay youths?
Perhaps, perhaps not. But the legislators' interference injected politics into the administrative process.
The Indiana General Assembly should set the general rules, then leave it to state agencies to apply the rules fairly.