Auburn University is one step closer to getting a Florida specialty license plate.
State Rep. James Grant’s legislation (HB 1135) revamping how the state creates specialty license plates breezed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee with a 13-2 vote.
Grant’s bill would cap the number of specialty tags at 125 and it would allow new tags to replace the lowest performing ones in the program. It would also create specialty plates for three out-of-state schools: Auburn University, the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama.
The proceeds from the sale of those plates would go to scholarships for Florida students who had attended a state high school and are now attending one of those schools. They have to meet Florida Bright Futures program criteria.
This has been a multiyear push by Grant, who is an Auburn University alumnus.
Windermere Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson introduced an amendment that would have added specialty plates for several African American fraternities and sororities. Those include Alpha Kappa Alpha, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho. The money raised from the sale of the plates would go to organizations such as the United Negro College Fund, State of Florida Pearls and the Delta Research and Educational Foundation.
Grant called the amendment “unfriendly,” saying even his own fraternity asked for a specialty plate and he said no.
“I do not believe it is a good idea to open the floodgates of Panhellenic organizations,” he said. “I don’t feel they would sell sufficiently.”
But Thompson said the organizations are a vestige of segregation and the amendment tries to tear that barrier. She argued that it was unlikely that having one single, generic vehicle tag for all those organizations would be a top seller.
“Citizens in the state of Florida want this,” she said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the citizens that we’re all elected to serve.”
Thompson’s amendment failed to pass.
This was HB 1135’s first committee. It next heads to the Transportation and Tourism Subcommittee. A similar Senate bill (SB 412) has yet to get a committee hearing.