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Arizona legislators want to put brakes on specialty license plates

Courtesy image<br>
The House Transportation Committee passed the bill, saying many specialty plates detract from the main reason for having a license plate - easy identification of a vehicle.

Courtesy image<br> The House Transportation Committee passed the bill, saying many specialty plates detract from the main reason for having a license plate - easy identification of a vehicle.

PHOENIX (AP) - Legislation pending at the Capitol would put the brakes on specialty license plates.

The House bill would allow those who now have a specialty plate to renew it, but the fees would be directed to a state fund instead of a charity.

Drivers with specialty plates pay an extra fee of $25 above the basic cost of a regular plate. The state keeps $8 for administrative costs and passes along the other $17 to sponsoring charities.

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said the state has approved far too many new plate designs and should not be in the business of charity fundraising.

"The whole purpose of this is to avoid being a 700-special-plate state like Maryland," Farley said.

The House Transportation Committee passed the bill with a 4-2 vote, with Republicans and Democrats saying many specialty plates detract from the main reason for having a license plate - easy identification of a vehicle.

Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, who voted no, said the state didn't notify groups that benefit from the specialty plates about the pending legislation.

Specialty groups that depend on proceeds from the specialty plates say ending the program would create financial hardship.

At Arizona State University, sales of specialty plates have raised thousands of dollars for the Medallion Scholarship Program.

"Hundreds of students have graduated from ASU as a direct result," said Tracy Scott, spokeswoman for the ASU Alumni Association.

Farley, however, said the specialty plate program has spun out of control. Last year, the Legislature approved a dozen new plates, and this year there are five new requests.

A total of 518,000 vehicles now have specialty license plates in the state, which amounts to 8 percent of all plates, according to state Motor Vehicle Division statistics from last year.

Farley said it's not the government's role to do fundraising for private groups, no matter how noble the cause.

"Sell a bumper sticker each year, make it fashionable and charge $25," he said.

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