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New specialty plate form goes online Thursday

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 7:58 am

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's yearlong moratorium on requests for new specialty license plates will end Thursday when the Bureau of Motor Vehicles posts new application forms online for the state's revamped specialty plate program, state officials told a legislative panel Tuesday.

BMV general counsel Elizabeth Murphy told members of a fledgling legislative committee that will review those applications that applications for specialty plates must be submitted by April 1, 2014. The first new specialty plates won't be issued until January 2015.

State lawmakers this year overhauled Indiana's specialty license plate system following a controversy over plates issued to the Indiana Youth Group, a support group for gay teenagers. The state said the group violated its contract by issuing low-numbered plates to donors and volunteers and canceled the plates, along with those of two other groups, last year.

The youth group sued the BMV in June after the agency declined to follow an administrative judge's request that it reinstate the group's plate.

Indiana's revised program includes a requirement that all groups with specialty plates sell at least 500 plates a year.

Murphy gave the committee a list of about 90 of the state's 103 specialty plates. More than a dozen of the groups listed had sold less than 200 plates through the first six months of 2013.

Any group that doesn't sell at least 500 plates by Dec. 31 will be placed on probation, she said. Groups that can't sell at least 500 plates in 2014 will have their plates revoked.

Murphy said all Indiana groups that have had specialty license plates for the past 10 years must submit new applications for plates by next April. Colleges and veterans groups with plates are exempt from that requirement.

BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell told the committee that the new plate program and the panel's advisory role should aid nonprofit groups and others entities seeking the plates.

"Hopefully it will add some clarification to the process. I think it will benefit everybody in the long run," he said.

Motorists pay an additional $40 for the special plates, with $25 going to the organization and its cause and $15 to the BMV.

Indiana's new specialty plate law created the eight-member specialty plate committee, which includes four Republican and four Democratic lawmakers.

The panel will review each application and scrutinize the groups' financial statements before making recommendations to the BMV about whether it should approve the request. The BMV will have the final say on each application.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, who sponsored this year's legislation, said he wants to ensure that at least 75 percent of the money nonprofit groups raise through license plate sales goes to the cause they're raising money for.

"I think pretty strongly that legitimate not-for-profits are transparent and the money goes where they say it's going — not to have some president of the entity driving a BMW. If they say they're feeding kids, the money should be going to feed kids," said Soliday, R-Valparaiso.

The committee's chairman, state Sen. Tom Wyss, said the panel will meet again this fall to ensure its members understand how to review each application.

"We're trying to make sure that we treat each and every group fairly that meets our criteria," Wyss said.