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Specialty license plates await Ron DeSantis’ stamp

The specialty plates bill arrived just in time — the 60th day of the Session.

Several new specialty plates head to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk for final approval after the House accepted Senators’ recommendations Friday.

On that list are Disney, Auburn University and the bald eagle.

The Senate, under the guidance of Sen. Aaron Bean, tipped the legislation (HB 1135) back to the House Thursday after removing an ethical ecotourism plate, adding the Divine Nine and making a couple of technical changes.

Lawmakers celebrated the bill’s myriad specialty plates used to raise funds for an array of philanthropic purposes.

Out of state universities giving scholarships to Florida students could have a tag under the legislation, though the money raised from those tags must stay in the state after a Senate clarification. Bill sponsor Rep. Jamie Grant‘s alma mater — Auburn University — the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama each get plates under the measure.

And after eight years of pushing for a tag for the Divine Nine — the National Pan-Hellenic Council of historically black fraternities and sororities — Rep. Geraldine Thompson secured those plates. Those Greek groups formed during segregation and mentor youth, battle disease and poverty, raise scholarship funds and provide other services.

“Those are sororities and fraternities that originated during days of segregation and they function on college campuses throughout the country,” Thompson said.

Funds raised from Walt Disney World plates would go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Northern Florida.

Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia noted that nearly $1 million of funds raised from fallen law enforcement officer plates have not made their way into the hands of fallen officers’ families. The fix, four or five years in the works, is included in the bill.

“Now, families of fallen law enforcement officers will now be able to tap into that $900,000 and make their lives better,” Ingoglia said. “Chair Grant, Senator Bean, the families of these fallen law enforcement officers and the law enforcement officer community is forever grateful to you, sir.”

On a feather-light note, House Majority Leader Dane Eagle said the proposal would create a license plate for the national bird.

“A vote today on this bill will be a vote for eagle.”

And House budget chief Travis Cummings jokingly threatened to remove some member projects from the budget if they voted down the bill.

“The budget is not done. I will be looking at that board a little bit, I’d like to see a lot of green,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the House approved the bill 78-40 before the Senate approved its amendments unanimously. But Cummings’ threats appeared to work Friday, the last day of the regularly scheduled Legislative Session, as the House voted unanimously.

Per bill analysis, the legislation would set a cap of 125 specialty license plates and provides a process for the discontinuation of low performing plates and the addition of new plates.

It would also compel the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue specialty license plates for fleet and motor vehicle dealer vehicles.

The bill creates 19 new specialty license plates and specifies the design of the plate and the distribution of the associated annual use fees.

As well, it contains provisions regarding existing specialty license plates and repeals specified discontinued specialty license plates.

Among other contemplated plates: Special Olympics; Florida Golf; the “Live the Dream” license plate, and a “In God We Trust” tag. Also available: a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag motif.

Also contemplated: a Ducks Unlimited plate, a hat tip to former Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam‘s current sinecure.

Beekeepers and Rotarians also have a tag of choice, as do “Medical Professionals Who Care.”

Additionally, the Highwaymen are honored: “a group of 26 African-American artists [who] used vivid and bright colors to display the beautiful untouched Florida landscape.”

As of February, 1.63 million specialty plates were registered in Florida, according to the DHSMV.

The top seller remains the University of Florida, followed by Helping Sea Turtles Survive, the surfing-related Endless Summer and Florida State University.

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Content from the News Service of Florida.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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