Specialty license plates. Ugh. Arizona has too many.
Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I have been against specialty license plates since my first term in the Arizona House in 2017.￼ Specialty license plates are a way for legislators to funnel money into pet projects or favorite charities. The gift clause prohibits us from doing this, but these license plates pass routinely on bipartisan votes with a wink and a nod. I have heard legislators shout out on the floor, “This is for XYZ charity please vote yes!￼”
Up until today all of these specialty license plates have passed, even though many of us on both sides of the aisle are fed up with them. Bipartisan votes have given Arizona more than 60 specialty license plates. Many years ago, specialty plates were a lame way to fund state departments. For full disclosure, one of our cars has the Arizona Highways plate, one of the originals. Several different plates fund different veterans services. All of the universities and colleges (public and private) have plates. Nonprofit foundations affiliated with for-profit corporations have plates. Cathi Herrod’s Center for Arizona Policy has a specialty plate. Is this any way to run a government? Should goverment fees go to pet causes?
The Arizona Department of Transportation warned the Legislature a few years ago that they would have to reprogram their license plate database if the Legislature went over 60 plates, and, of course, we cavalierly did. During debate a few years ago, Rep. T.J. Shope said 60 plates was nothing compared to Maryland and Texas who have around 400 specialty plates each. That’s crazy– not to mention the difficulties for law enforcement or the questions about where the money is going. (For the record, Arizona’s goal should not be to be as crazy as Texas.)
Today we heard two license plate bills from Rep. John Kavanagh (who often proposes license plate bills) HB2063 (education and community enrichment plates) and HB2064 (rodeo special plates).
I pushed my button and asked a question about how specifically worded the first license plate bill was and asked if this was a carveout for a specific organization. Kavanagh said, “No, because that would be against the law.￼”
Both license plate bills were defeated and a bipartisan vote. This is four Republican bills that have been defeated in recent weeks. The Border Wall bill came back as a Zombie and was passed on reconsideration.
Kavanagh flipped his vote to “no” on 2063 so he could bring it back as a Zombie immediately. He twisted enough arms that votes flipped around and passed it. He was actively working representatives who sit near me who voted “no” on both of them.￼ Since he didn’t flip his vote to “no” on 2064, he has to get somebody else to propose it for reconsideration to bring the Zombie bill back from the dead. I thanked the Rep. Bolick for her courage in standing up against the license plates. She, Reps. Michelle Udall and Steve Pierce, and I all grumbled about the license plates in 2019.
Back at my office, I searched for “a museum about the west that had vintage saddles” [paraphrasing 2064’s language] and found the Western Spirit Scottsdale Museum of the West in LD23, Kavanagh’s district. For 2063, I googled “Scottsdale Charros”, since in committee, Kavanagh said 2063 was to benefit “a group like the Scottsdale Charros but not them” [paraphrasing, watch video online]. On the homepage of the Scottsdale Charros is their a mission statement, which is quoted nearly verbatim in the bill.￼
These are blatantly carve outs, along with all of the other license plate bills that the legislature has passed.
Why are we doing this? There are many museums who would like *ongoing* state funding. Why is there a license plate that funds just one museum? There are also many worthwhile charities that work with youth, build community, and offer scholarships. Again, why￼ are license plates funneled to just one group? Heck, there are schools that would like ongoing, dedicated state funding! Why don’t we fund them?
Specialty license plates are an unfair system that favors the connected.