By Tim Grimes
INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriot Guard Riders and the Indiana chapter of the Greenways Foundation are two non-profits that are not normally associated with each other. Yet, both groups testified Wednesday in favor of keeping their non-profit license plates.
The Interim Study Committee on Special Group Recognition License Plates met to decide the fate of more than 100 special group license plates.
Those testifying were asked to address three questions:
Is it a legitimate role of the state to raise funding for non-profit organizations through the sale of special group recognition license plates? What is the responsibility of the state to its citizens and specifically to citizens who purchase special group recognition license plates? Does the state have adequate resources to fulfill its responsibility under the second question?
Charlie Hyde, director of membership at the Indianapolis Zoo, said the state’s specialty license plate program is a win for the state, the organizations that participate and all Hoosiers.
“What other tax have Hoosiers embraced so enthusiastically?” he said.
Gina Leckron, state director for Habitat for Humanity, said that the plates allow her organization to not only make money but also help advertise the organization.
“This is our way of doing a bumper sticker,” said Leckron. “It not only generates revenue from the actual sale of the plate, but also in getting new volunteers.”
Rep. Ed Soliday, a Republican from Valparaiso and chairman of the committee, said that there should be some consumer protections in place for those motorists that buy the plates. He cited a California incident in which money generated from a 9-11 license plate was used to pay down the state’s deficit, even though it was supposed to go to help fund anti-terror efforts and provide scholarships.
The General Assembly assigned the license plate issues to study committee after some lawmakers raised concerns that the state now has too many plates. Also, some Republicans became frustrated that last year that the BMV approved a plate for the Indiana Youth Group, an organization that aims to help gay teens.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly considered legislation that would have stripped away the Indiana Youth Group plate and set new rules for the review and issuance of new and existing plates. But the bill failed to gain the support needed to pass and lawmakers sent the issue to a study committee for consideration.
Soliday said Wednesday that the commission isn’t likely to endorse specific legislation.
But Soliday said that neither he nor his colleagues “lacked assertiveness training” and that members would likely introduce legislation on their own.
Tim Grimes is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, an Indiana news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
This is a corrected version of this story. Due to a reporter’s error, the original story incorrectly characterized the testimony of Charlie Hyde, director of membership at the Indianapolis Zoo. Hyde said the state license plate program is a win for the state, the organizations and all Hoosiers. He did not say it was the state’s “responsibility” to provide the program. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the error.