Vanity plates with a catch

February 22, 2008 4:47:53 AM PST
A harassed minority - Florida Gators fans in Georgia - got the chance this month to show their school pride on their license plates, but legislators are attacking the new privilege with a full-on blitz.

Unhappy that some states, including Florida, make it difficult or impossible to put the logos of Georgia colleges on their own plates, the state House voted 142-10 on Wednesday to keep those states' school logos off Georgia-registered car bumpers.

"Whatever is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Whatever we allow here in Georgia would have to be allowed in other states," said state Rep. Barry Fleming, the bill's sponsor.

"This bill solves a lot of problems."

The House measure would allow special prestige alumni plates only for states that reciprocate in honor of Georgia schools, adding a twist to the bitter rivalry between the Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it enjoys the support of the chamber's leaders.

Under current law, groups seeking approval for a vanity tag must have their application approved and persuade 1,000 people to plunk down $25 apiece before the plates are printed.

University of Florida alumni in Georgia quickly lined up the necessary number of motorists, and county drivers services offices began issuing the tags this month. Georgia also allows prestige plates honoring Clemson University in South Carolina and Auburn University in Alabama.

Alabama and South Carolina, however, do not allow plates to be labeled with out-of-state colleges.

In Florida, the bar for getting specialized places is much higher than it is in Georgia. An applicant has to pay $60,000 and conduct a survey that proves an interest. The tag must then be created by an act of the Florida Legislature and must continue to sell at 1,000 plates a year to stay in existence.

Tennessee has a law similar to Georgia's, and plates are available for most Southeastern Conference schools, including the Volunteers' biggest rivals - the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide.

If the Georgia bill passes, residents with vanity plates honoring schools in states that don't return the favor would lose the plates when they need to be replaced.

The proposal passed with little debate, but the few who spoke up wondered why Georgia would crack down on residents willing to voluntarily pay what amounts to a $25 tax.