By Maureen Hayden
The Hendricks County Flyer
Mon Sep 24, 2012, 03:23 PM EDT
Who would have thought the back of your car could become a free speech battleground? Probably not the folks in Florida who, in 1987, started the trend of using state-issued specialty license plates to raise money for special causes.
Florida thought it was a good idea to honor the astronauts who had died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster by building a memorial to them. The state created and sold the special Challenger plate to fund it, raising millions of dollars for the project.
That triggered other states, including Indiana, to create a mechanism for state-issued license plates to become sources of revenue for projects beyond the states' usual scope. Now, for an extra fee of $40 beyond what it costs to license your vehicle, Hoosiers can pick from more than 100 state-issued specialty license plates to express their support for organizations that range from the National Rifle Association to the University of Notre Dame.
They're popular: Almost a half-million Hoosiers bought specialty license plates last year, raising millions of dollars for their favorite causes. The problem, though, arises when someone in doesn't like the cause. Last year, some lawmakers in the Indiana legislature tried to eliminate a specialty plate for a gay youth group. Their push failed, but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles later stripped the plates from the group and two other organizations, saying they wrongly traded low-digit plates for contributions. Those groups contend the practice is common.
The Indiana legislature is likely to take up the issue in the next session but there are no easy answers.
Specialty license plates have caused havoc in almost every state that has them.
In South Carolina, for example, the legislature recently approved a religious specialty license plate, with the slogan "I believe" and the image of a cross over a stained-glass window. The plate is being challenged in court by a group that promotes the separation of church and state.
Last year, the Arizona state legislature created a "Don't Tread on Me" special license plate that raises money for Tea Party groups in the state. Some of the strongest protest came from Tea Party members themselves, who objected to the government bureaucracy created to dole out the dollars.
At least nine states have approved a Sons of Confederate Veterans' specialty plate, emblazoned with the Confederate flag. But several did so only after the group sued.
About half of the states have approved the sale of "Choose Life" specialty license plates that benefit pro-life organizations that promote adoption over abortion. But those plates have been challenged in court in several states on First Amendment grounds, with opponents arguing "viewpoint discrimination" because there is no "pro-choice" alternative.
The Supreme Court has let stand some state rulings barring production of the plates. A central question in the debate: Are the state-issued specialty license plates government speech or private citizens' speech? The First Amendment applies to government efforts to restrict free speech; it doesn't apply to the state itself. But if the state sanctions license plates for certain private organizations to broadcast their messages, is it the state talking? Or is just allowing some private citizens to talk while censoring others?
Those are some of the questions that the Indiana General Assembly will have to confront.
- Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI Statehouse bureau in Indiana. She may be reached by e-mailing to email@example.com.
Will the current V.A. backlog on veterans’ compensation claims be the next scandal to hit the administration?
Currently, the backlog is at 865,000 plus compensation claims with a wait time of greater than 125 days.
June 18, 2013
Apparently, it is not enough to tolerate, accept, or even endorse the gay agenda. Now, unless you tolerate and accept criminal behavior committed by gays, you are a hater.
Believe it — that is the very public argument being made in behalf of Florida high school cheerleader Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, who faces criminal charges for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
Word on the street and in the media is that it will be a really bad summer for mosquitoes. Or should I say, it will be a really bad summer for humans, because it will be a great year for thirsty mosquitoes.
June 14, 2013
As a Christian, I feel compelled to respond to a recent letter to the editor.
When Barack Obama announced his presidential campaign back in February 2007, he did it in front of the old Springfield, Ill., Statehouse in a speech full of references to Abraham Lincoln.
Ordinarily I don’t take requests, but a bunch of people have written to ask how I’m doing with my weight-loss surgery and I thought this might be the most efficient way to answer.
June 11, 2013
I am a grandmother who went to the Brownsburg graduation ceremony on June 7 and due to very poor planning on Brownsburg School’s part, I could not sit and watch my twin grandsons graduate in person. I was directed to an overflow room where I had to watch it on a TV screen and could not even take pictures.
What you are now hearing across the land is a collective whine. Blue-state Democrats are upset that Texas Gov. Rick Perry dares come and play in their sandboxes, and worse, threatens to “poach” jobs from their states.
The website Politico reports that Perry’s attempts to lure jobs to Texas are “infuriating to prominent Democrats around the country.”
I am the first to admit I am behind the times when it comes to technology. I remember way back in the olden days of the 1990s when I was actually ahead of the game. Now there are second-graders that are more tech savvy than me. I just decided to stop my forward technological progression a few years back.
June 7, 2013
College graduates facing a crushing debt – some more than $100,000 – is a very big and a very real problem.
But U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent proposal to deal with it won’t solve the problem. It is a cheap ploy to divert attention from the real problem.
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
Pit bulls “are considered dangerous animals/dogs and potentially hazardous to the community,” a Bessemer, Pa., ordinance states.
June 19, 2013
© 2013 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2013. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500