A dark blue plate with the familiar design of the state flag was unveiled last month as the favorite among finalists for Indiana’s new standard license plate. But the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ uneven policies involving the “In God We Trust” specialty plate appear to have made it Indiana’s standard plate instead.
Reports from across the state suggest that motorists are being offered the plate even without requesting one.
As The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly reported Wednesday, that seems to contradict the legislation creating the specialty plate, which stipulates that motorists are eligible to receive the plate after “completing an application.”
The BMV needs to review the legislation establishing the “In God We Trust” plate and set uniform policies to be followed at each of its license branches. Its uneven procedures appear to place the state in the position of promoting “In God We Trust” as the standard state license plate.
The emphasis on distributing the specialty plate is especially puzzling considering the agency’s recent efforts to control costs. The “In God We Trust” plate costs more to make than the blue-and-green standard tag – 50 cents more per plate, to be precise. With 824,504 “In God We Trust” plates distributed as of last Saturday, that’s an additional $412,000 the agency has spent on plates. Six months into the year, that takes a hefty chunk out of the $1 million annual inventory cost savings the BMV boasts will be realized by replacing the one- or two-digit county indicator plates with a county sticker.
The BMV has even discouraged car owners from choosing the more cheaply manufactured standard plate by placing a premium on it. Those who request a new standard plate because their 2003-issue plate has been damaged must pay a $9 replacement fee. But they can accept a new “In God We Trust” plate with no replacement fee.
The state requires motorists who want certain specialty plates to provide additional paperwork to obtain their plates. Anyone requesting a Taylor University plate, for example, must produce an authorization form from Taylor and pay a $15 administrative fee and $15 group fee, which supports university programs.
There were early indications that the “In God We Trust” plate will cut into sales of plates supporting such worthy programs. In the first three months of this year, sales of the popular environmental trust plate were almost half what they were for the same period a year ago. Group fees from that plate go to the Indiana Heritage Trust fund to buy and protect land.
The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state on behalf of an Allen County resident who believes the plate is unconstitutional because it is exempt from the $15 administrative fee charged for other specialty license plates. The courts will have to determine that.
But BMV officials need to take a close look at policies and procedures involving distribution of the plate. BMV spokesman Greg Cook told Kelly the agency wants to make people aware of the “In God We Trust” plate but doesn’t want to promote it.
Yet promotion of the plate as Indiana’s new standard plate appears to be exactly what is taking place – at an additional cost.
Just another example of what happens when you let phony nonprofit organizations run around lobbying the State House pretending to represent God.