I thought that orginally the government claimed that the real reason for license plates were to verify that each car paid its taxes, and denied that the license plate was to be used to track down the owner of the car.

of course then came the personalized license plates and as this article states it because a gold mine for the state governments to raise revenue.

but in this article the government seems to be admitting that the main reason for license plates is so the government can track down the car owner. and of course a secondary reason is to shake down the owner of the car for revenue.

Some lawmakers say that each new plate brings with it the chance of confusion for law enforcement officials or citizens calling to report an incident.


Senate voices dislike of specialty auto plates

Casey Newton The Arizona Republic Feb. 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Once a simple way of identifying a vehicle and its driver, Arizona license plates are morphing into a prominent means of self-expression and fund-raising.

The old maroon-and-white plate with "Grand Canyon State" has given way to a dizzying array of plates advocating causes from organ donation to obeying the Golden Rule. All told, the state offers 64 plates in 112 styles, with more being approved each year.

Motorists love them, and non-profit groups say specialty plates are powerful fund-raisers. But the rapid proliferation of plates is raising concerns at the Arizona Legislature, where lawmakers worry they have become more costly and confusing than they're worth.

"It's a problem for law enforcement, and we don't even know what a problem it is for the (Motor Vehicle Division) and the cost to citizens," said Sen. Marilyn Jarrett, R-Mesa. "It's a runaway situation, and nobody has any answers."

Jarrett is sponsoring a bill, recently passed by the Senate, that would require the MVD to issue a report documenting the number of special plates issued, the revenue they generate and the costs of producing and distributing them to the public.

Meanwhile, this year will see the introduction of three new Arizona plates, and lawmakers are considering four more.

Beginning next month, motorists will be able to buy a plate that will promote breast-cancer awareness. Proceeds will be used to sponsor mammograms in low-income communities.

Later this year, Arizonans will have the chance to sport the new "Golden Rule" plate. A San Carlos Apache Tribe plate also will be made available.

Plates now under consideration would benefit military veterans, the families of fallen police officers and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation.

Another plate would be made available to members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

But Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, won't be voting for any of them.

"I'm sick of these special license plates," she said. "We've got way too many, and it never seems to end."

Despite lawmakers' concerns, non-profit groups remain eager to exploit the plates' fund-raising potential. Of the annual $25 fee a motorist pays for a special plate, $17 is returned to the organization.

"It's phenomenal," said Karen Conway, executive director of the Diamondbacks Foundation. "Seventeen dollars per plate would come back to our foundation, and that would be a huge lift for us."

As the community outreach arm of the baseball franchise, the Diamondbacks Foundation builds ball fields across the state and sponsors a variety of grant programs.

Using rough estimates, the group figures it could raise $100,000 to $300,000 per year with a Diamondbacks plate.

"We won't be disappointed by any number," Conway said. "We would love to have the community know even further how much we support them and what our mission is as the Diamondbacks Foundation. This is a great way to do it."

Courtney Levinus has seen firsthand how plates raise awareness. Everyone in her family has a "Conserving wildlife" plate, benefiting the Wildlife Conservation Council, and people often ask about it.

"People are curious about what the plate is," said Levinus, a lobbyist whose firm worked to win legislative support for the conservation plate. "Ours is really a unique plate with the elk and the Apache trout and the quail. It's kind of a conversation starter."

Since it was issued in 2002, more than 1,000 conservation plates have been registered, raising $56,000 for the group.

Of course, not every plate is a hit. Approved in 2004, the "Character education" plate has sold only 615 copies. A spokeswoman for the group, whose plate trumpets values including "responsibility," did not return a call seeking comment.

In contrast, more than 32,000 child-abuse prevention plates have been issued, raising more than $3 million for the cause. Funds from that plate are administered by The Arizona Republic.

Some lawmakers say that each new plate brings with it the chance of confusion for law enforcement officials or citizens calling to report an incident.

On a handful of occasions, police say, citizens who call to report a crime or other problem have been unable to say what state a particular plate belonged to.

But state Department of Public Safety officers have little trouble identifying vehicles that sport the plates, a spokesman said.

"I've heard a lot of people complain that that's not the purpose of a license plate; it's not a bulletin board," Officer Frank Valenzuela said.

"But our officers do it day in and day out. It doesn't seem to impact them."

Cydney DeModica, an MVD spokeswoman, said the new plates' popularity is almost certain to rise.

"People enjoy having these license plates on their cars, and more importantly they are supporting these organizations financially as a result of displaying the plate," she said.

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