« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Associated Press, Published February 19 2013

Special cause license plates vex Minn. lawmakers

ST. PAUL – Protect the environment. Support the troops. Show some college pride.

Special Minnesota license plates that act as state-sanctioned billboards and fundraising tools for various causes are causing angst among some lawmakers, who are worried about where to draw the line and whether they’re actually a losing proposition.

Another handful of special plate requests are before the Legislature this year. The House Transportation Committee heard Tuesday from backers of proposed plates to raise breast cancer awareness and research dollars, to recognize retired firefighters, to promote organ donation and to help the American Red Cross raise disaster relief money.

Breast cancer survivor Dawn Jesse, of Janesville, shared her harrowing account of being diagnosed as she told the committee that the breast cancer awareness plates would make a difference.

Jesse said it’s about “keeping people aware 365 days a year – and not just once in a while. Whenever you see a license plate, maybe you will be reminded it’s time to go in” for a checkup.

Her husband, John Jesse, was more emphatic. “We can all be heroes. We can save a life,” he said.

Those plates would also require people seeking them to make a minimum $20 donation to a University of Minnesota cancer research center.

The batch of proposed plates would add to a collection of plate variations that now tops 200, according to state officials. That includes the standard-issue blue-and-white plates with a forest scene and the “Explore Minnesota” motto.

The committee didn’t vote on any of the bills, but the chairman, Rep. Ron Erhardt, said he would consider moving each of them ahead later this year. Some lawmakers admit it’s tough to say no, but they worry that many special plates aren’t making up for the cost to produce them.

In 2003, lawmakers approved a law requiring people pushing for a new plate design to prove they could sell at least 10,000 of them. They also were required to plunk down $20,000 to cover the front-end development costs. But both requirements have been waived on occasion.

One of the bills before lawmakers would mandate a state report each year on the number of plates issued, the donations collected and the use of the money.

Most of the plates require motorists to pay an add-on fee of $10, and some also demand a separate annual contribution of $25 or $30 to a dedicated fund.