INDIANAPOLIS – Groups that for years have had modest specialty license plates sales, including IPFW and other universities, are now on notice to increase their sales or be terminated from the program.
Eighteen entities sold fewer than 500 plates in 2012, and some are trailing that number again this year, such as Huntington University, the Rotary Club and Trine University.
Lawmakers have now intervened in the somewhat controversial program, in which various nonprofit groups get a portion of the money Hoosiers pay to display the specialty plates. There are 92 group plates raising a total of $6 million annually. Of that, $3.8 million goes to the entities and the rest to various state funds and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Some of the more popular specialty plates include the Arts Trust, Children’s Trust, Heritage Trust, Support Our Troops and IU and Purdue universities.
A newly created Special Group Recognition License Plate Committee met for the first time Tuesday to iron out its duties. Four Republicans and four Democrats make up the eight-member committee.
“We’ve been precise with some groups and not others. I want to make sure we are precise with all the groups,” said Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne.
As chairman of the committee, Wyss stressed there has been too much subjective interpretation used in the process in the past, and he wants the system to be clear and transparent.
The committee’s first goal will focus on the groups selling fewer than 500 plates a year. The BMV has been lax in enforcing this requirement.
Now, the agency will send notices emphasizing the need to sell 500 plates each year. If the group doesn’t meet the goal by the end of the year, the BMV will place that group on probation in 2014. If the group fails to reach 500 again, the plate will be terminated.
Lawmakers also created new guidelines for the program following a moratorium that includes additional financial and ethics rules.
Interested groups can start applying Thursday until April 1. The legislative committee will review the applications and give recommendations by September 2014, with the BMV making the final decisions.
That means new specialty group license plates won’t be added again until 2015. No more than five specialty group plates can be approved a year.
A third duty of the new committee is to review groups that already have the plates. The law requires existing groups to reapply under the new guidelines after 10 years.
Any group with a plate before 2003 – about 28 statewide – would have to jump through new hoops to get approved again.
Examples of these groups include the American Legion, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Indiana Black Expo.
Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, expressed frustration at the amount of advisory work the legislature is taking on over an executive branch function.
“I did not run for the General Assembly to be sitting in a committee picking license plates,” she said.