Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Get rid of specialty license plate program regardless of court case outcome

The state of Texas won't approve a specialty license plate emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag and has taken its case all the way to the US Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments this week. As a proud son of the South who grew up with that flag hanging on my bedroom wall, Grits hopes the state loses ... but maybe not for the same reasons as the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

To be sure, seeing the word "Texas" emblazoned above the stars and bars on official license plates would be ugly and dispiriting. But more to the point, I'm sick to death of the specialty license plate program, a purely symbolic diversion which seemingly takes up more legislative attention than quite a few real-world problems like, for example, the 1.4 million godforsaken drivers who've lost their licenses thanks to the Driver Responsibility surcharge. It drives me crazy when legislators waste precious time on this sort of fluff then never get around to the things that affect real people.

An attorney for the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the court that, if their side won, there would be no justification for banning "a swastika," an "outright racial slur," or even the word "jihad" from Texas license plates. Wouldn't that be special?! Most people agree that, if that were the case, the state would likely eliminate the program altogether. To which I'd reply, "Please, and thank you!"

That's in fact why I hope the state loses. Not only do I think it's the right outcome on First Amendment grounds (along with letting Nazis march in Skokie, etc.), if it happens, then the Texas Lege could get rid of the damn specialty license plate program and be done with it. Let those longing to turn their vehicle into a canvas for self expression - both drivers and legislators - purchase bumper stickers and leave state government out of it.


Anonymous said...

Grits is right on. The State of Texas Lege should spend time on matters of real importance, like the budget and stop wasting their time and my money on the right to strap a six-shooter to your hip, gay marriage, specialty plates, DPS's answer to "border security" etc.

PDiddie said...

Well said. Cannot imagine that the amount of revenue this generates is so significant that it cannot afford to be lost.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, I do suspect that the 3rd party vendor who runs this program for the state would have a say-so on the income it generates! I'd be willing to bet that this is a locked in contract that guarantees a certain dollar amount of income per year.

I do have a personalized plate that is on an Animal Lover plate. I'd like to drop the Animal Lover plate however. I can not do this though without shelling out about $500 bucks to do so. All "new" vanity plates require a several year purchase on them now that the third party vendor is involved. So, I keep up with my year to year fees as I am grandfathered in under the old system.

I'd be happy to see the specialty plates go too. Where's the audit saying these funds are actually going to the groups intended and not being raided to fund the political theater at the border?

Anonymous said...

The State could also save some money by issuing only 1 plate for the rear of the vehicle while charging the same registration fee. Works in many other states, not sure why bills to do that keep getting killed in the Lege.

John C. Key MD said...

I don't think the state wants to save money, it is too much fun to extort the citizenry whether it be through the odious DRP or specialty plates.

Gadfly said...

Will PD be the first to apply for a swastika plate, or better yet, a jihad one, just to be snarky, or will it be me?

And, anonymous has another angle; beyond vacuous symbolism is actual privatized $$$.