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Freemasonry Watch

With 120 specialty tags in Florida, legislators consider 3 more

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Daytona Beach News-Journal

With 120 specialty tags in Florida, legislators consider 3 more

Friday, April 26, 2013

By Anthony DeFeo

DAYTONA BEACH — It's no secret Cynthia Ramirez supports education; in fact, she proudly advertises her support on the back of her car.

Her SUV has one of 1,103 Support Education specialty license plates in Volusia and Flagler counties.

Florida has 120 specialty plates — and counting — promoting everything from environmental causes to college alumni associations and veterans groups. At least one state senator recently expressed displeasure with the proliferation of specialty tags.

Statewide, the plates raked in more than $30 million last year for various causes, according to the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Motorists must pay an extra $15 to $25 for the specialty tag, in addition to state registration fees.

Ramirez, for her part, said she happily pays the extra $20 fee for her plate. She is the former president and current member of the FUTURES Foundation, which supports Volusia County schools and receives proceeds from the plates.

“It's a way to support something or show passion for one thing or another,” she said. “I also hope when a teacher sees my plates they feel appreciated and supported.”

The sheer number of specialty plates became a concern for state legislators, who imposed a moratorium in 2008 on new specialty plates until July 2014.

Several plates that were already in the pipeline before May 2008 have squeaked through an exception in the moratorium since then.

Legislators have already proposed three more plates this session — for Freemasonry, Fallen Law Enforcement Officers and Sun, Sea and Smiles, which would raise money for several Caribbean-American charities.

Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican who is expected to become Senate president in 2014, expressed displeasure earlier this month with the proliferation of specialty tags, even as a subcommittee backed the new tag for Freemasonry.

“We have a situation where some don't want to expand Medicaid, we're dealing with a $74 billion budget, yet it amazes me that we can get wrapped around the axle over $70,000 in a license plate,” Gardiner said.

The Legislature has made several efforts in recent years, including attempting a moratorium, to prevent new specialty plates. “But they keep coming,” Gardiner said.

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