Indiana News

UPDATE: Gay Rights Youth Group Gets To Keep Specialty Tag, Though Battle May Not Be Over

Lawmaker says plates will be discussed this summer; claims Indiana Youth Group violated contract

3/9/2012

A gay rights group which began selling a specialty license plate will be able to keep selling it, though one state lawmaker says he thinks it should be taken off the market.

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Republican State Senator David Long says the Legislature will put off talks on how to limit the proliferation of specialty plates until a special summer committee meets later this year. "Most people think that the Legislature ought to probably end up having control again," Long said, "and that we ought to have a very limited process for approving plates and a very specific one." Long was among the lawmakers looking to reduce the number of plates after the Indiana Youth Group won approval for a plate last year.

The group's plate went on sale January 1st and is the top selling specialty plate of the ones issued for the first time in 2012. Long contends the group violated it's contract with the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles, saying a clause in the contract prohibits groups from remarketing the license plates for value.

Every group that receives a specialty license plate are allowed to give low-numbered plates, usually numbered 1 through 100, to donors as gifts. Mary Byrne, executive director of the Indiana Youth Group, says the contract only says groups are not allowed to sell or auction those low-numbered plates. "We are not doing either of those things."

A bill that would have killed all specialty plates approved in 2011 had passed the House, but it's sponsor, Republican Representative Ed Soliday of Valparaiso, killed it last week, saying the issue had become too political. Lawmakers had considered adding an amendment similar to a transportation bill in the State Senate, but instead decided to leave the newly issued plates along and talk about the issue this summer.

Long says the BMV should look at Indiana Youth Group's contract. "That will just have to be a determination under the contract terms. They take a look at it, and BMV can decide. I think it's pretty clear that it was violated. It's their call though, and they'll have to make that decision." But Long would not say whether he would request that BMV look at the deal. "That request hasn't officially been made to BMV, as far as I know," said bureau spokesman Graig Lubsen.

Byrne admits her group gave away a handful of the specialty plates, "as thank-you gifts for donations, but (selling or auctioning them) is not...just something that we're doing." Other groups, such as the Greenways Foundation, also mention on their websites that you can receive a low-numbered plate as a gift in exchange for a donation.

She says if it wasn't obvious that some lawmakers were singling out Indiana Youth Group rather than trying to limit the overall number of plates, it should be now. "Well, it's really clear this time around that the solution the Senator has mentioned is just for us. But I don't think this solution is going to work."

Long and other lawmakers claim Indiana Youth Group is not the overriding issue. Instead, they point to the more than 100 license plates the state now offers. "Among many complaints, the state police hate these things. They're having a hard time now with the 108 plates or whatever it is," Long says.

Other non-profit groups who could have lost their specialty plates under the now-discarded legislation are showing support for Indiana Youth Group. "They worked hard, too. They had to go through the same procedures we did to get the license plates approved," says Pam Boas, mother of racing star Tony Stewart and treasurer of the Tony Stewart Foundation. "At this point, I think it's too late to rip it away from them."

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