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Tallahassee

Specialty license plate bills filed

Instant Photo Poster
By
Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Sunday, December 31, 2023

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Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) already has more than 100 specialty license plates that let drivers can support a favorite cause by putting their money where their all-wheel drive is.


By the end of Florida's 60-day legislative session, starting Jan. 9, drivers may have two more specialty plates to choose from.


One such license plate aims to raise awareness about mental health, drug addiction and fatal overdoses. Project Addiction: Reversing the Stigma is a nonprofit, created by people who’ve lost family members to “substance-use disorder” and the opiod epidemic. According to the organization's website, they work to educate the public about addiction and mental health. Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, of Winter Garden, Oakland and Windermere, filed Senate Bill 982 to direct FLHSMV to create a license plate for the nonprofit to promote “overdose awareness.” It’s the companion to House Bill 121, filed in October by Rep. Katherine Waldron of Palm Beach County.


According to the bill, revenue from license plate sales would go to “promote and support awareness of and education about substance use disorder and mental illness.” 


Deaths from drug overdoses, particularly opioids, increase about 30 percent each year nationwide, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS). In Florida, more than 5,200 people die of drug overdoses annually.


Republican state Rep. Doug Bankson, who represents Winter Garden and Apopka, filed House Bill 105 to develop a “general aviation” license plate. Proceeds from license plate sales would fund scholarships at Lakeland’s Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), which would be awarded to high school graduates from across Florida pursuing careers in any aspect of the aviation field. Republican state Sen. Gayle Harrell, who represents Port St. Lucie and Stuart, filed the Senate version of the bill, SB 60.


Thompson also introduced legislation to make minor revisions to the eligibility requirements for the Divine Nine specialty license plate. “Divine Nine” refers to the four Black sororities and five fraternities, founded at historically Black colleges and universities in the early part of the 20th century. They include: Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta.


Only sorority/fraternity members and “immediate relatives” — defined in the new bill as a spouse, domestic partner and child — are eligible for the plates, with proof of membership or connection to a member. Drivers who lease their cars would also be eligible for the license plate — initially only car owners would be issued the plate. 


According to the FLHSMV, annual revenues from plate sales are distributed to the United Negro College Fund, to be disbursed as financial aid to Florida students attending Florida HBCUs, along with the Association to Preserve African American Society, History and Tradition, Inc., among others. This bill does not yet have a House sponsor.

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