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Rite of spring: Lawmakers propose special license plates aplenty

Arizona lawmakers are proposing at least nine additions to a list of special license plates that already includes this centennial plate and several dozen others. Photo by Anna Consie and Brittny Goodsel
PHOENIX - Bumper stickers used to be the go-to means of showing support for causes. These days, that happens more and more on special license plates issued by the state of Arizona.

With several dozen special plates already available, state lawmakers are pushing for even more. Through Tuesday, bills had proposed nine new special plates for causes such as training volunteer firefighters, supporting the LGBT community and promoting awareness of developmental disabilities.

Jean Anderson, a member of the Arizona Horse Council, said creating an "equine education association" plate would show support for horses and fund scholarships that advance equine education.

"We are lacking funds, and it would provide us with a steady income," said Anderson, who raises horses in Rio Verde.

That bill, HB 2119, authored by Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, was among several that won endorsements Jan. 30 from the House Transportation Committee. Fann's bill also would would create a "developmental disabilities awareness" special plate.

Sierra Vista Fire Chief Randy Redman told the committee that a firefighter special plate would fund scholarships so those working for fire departments staffed by volunteers or serving Arizona's smallest communities can attend the State Fire School offered once a year.

"There's approximately 300 fire departments in this state, and the majority of those are the volunteer and smaller departments," said Redman, who is working Rep. David M. Gowan Sr., R-Sierra Vista, on HB 2444.

It costs $25 for a vehicle owner to order or renew a special plate, of which $17 goes to a party designated in the legislation that created it. Each design must have a financial sponsor to cover the one-time, $32,000 cost for the state to process and print the plates.

Other proposed plates endorsed by the House Transportation Committee would promote motorsports, professional golf and Grand Canyon University.

Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla, D-San Luis, voted against each of the measures, saying that with so many special plates available it's difficult for the public and police to read them.

"There are too many out there, and there is a concern for public safety," he said.

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, voted in favor but said this would be the last year she does so unless special plates are made to conform to a standard.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, authored a bill that would require a standard design for future special plates. It received a unanimous endorsement Tuesday from the Senate Transportation Committee.

Still waiting for hearings in the House were bills to create special plates honoring community colleges and Spanish missionary and explorer Father Eusebio Francisco Kino.

In the Senate, Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, has proposed an "equality for all" plate benefiting organizations that support members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. That bill had yet to be assigned to a committee.

While the demand for special plates continues, Jen Sweeney Marson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Association of Counties, said lawmakers need to address safety concerns raised by law enforcement.

"The special plates can make people feel good inside, but feeling good should never trump public safety," she said.

Proposed plates:

HB 2113: Arizona Motorsports

HB 2119: Developmental Disabilities Awareness and Equine Education

HB 2258: Father Kino

HB 2271: Arizona Professional Golf

HB 2384: Community College

HB 2390: Grand Canyon University

HB 2444: Firefighters

SB 2384: Equality for All

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