Why License Plates Are Made By Prisoners

Ever wonder why license plates are made by prisoners?

Some of those prisoners are there because of nefarious actions on their part.

I’m beginning to think the politicians who make the license plate laws are their kindred spirits.

Here’s how it works using New York State as an example:

New York State will be paying $4 million to Avery Dennison for the plate materials after 3M lost the contract. The plates are made by prison labor at about a buck an hour. That cost of $4 million and the labor is recovered by charging NY taxpayers $75 million for the plates.

The initial cost of the machinery is amortized over decades…and is also sold by 3M….the largest seller of license plate machinery and materials. 3M has lots of lobbyists pushing the “need” for plates both front and back. Their main argument is that it helps law enforcement catch the bad guys. Maybe make the rear plates bigger since they are chasing bad guys and not being chased.

The logic for both plates sounds like the gun registration laws to keep guns away from criminals. The good guys, of course, pay for both.

Thirty-one states require their motorists to display front license plates and plates on the back of their vehicles. The nineteen states that require only one plate include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico.

Legislation (S.F. 2694/H.F. 1817) has been introduced in Minnesota to allow for the issuance of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for special interest vehicles. These bills are currently awaiting consideration in the House and Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Divisions.

Some of the legislation goes back decades with no action after legislative time spent on the issue.  Makes you wonder if the 3M lobbyists were “assisting” the politicians in those efforts.

License plates are big revenue items for states. Special plates, personalized plates and replacement plates bring in big bucks. Then there are the “tabs” paid annually to “update” the license plates.

Here’s an argument that will pose a conundrum for those lobbyists. Politicians can maintain the cost of the plate tax but cut costs in half by eliminating the front plate. The cost but not revenue for the tabs is cut in half also. Won’t effect any LEO (law enforcement officer) who is chasing the bad guys and want to catch the plate ID.

Every state enjoys license plate revenue and has created laws as complex as Minnesota. It would appear that 19 states have realized that cost cut without losing revenue with their one plate law.

BTW: those aren’t “license” plates. You can have a drivers license without owning a car.            The plates are proof of vehicle registration (and taxes paid).

So what put this bee in my bonnet?

I own a 1992 Mazda Miata. That front plate is inches off the ground. Any LEO checking on it would have to get on their hands and knees to read it. Note also it’s right in front of the air intake that keeps the engine cooled. It’s also a prime target for that car wash monster brush.

Here’s the back plate several feet off the ground and easy to read for any LEO chasing me.     She’s 30 years old…running well (thanks to Impact Auto in Farmington) and MN collects just the minimum tax on the plates and tabs.

Another interesting fact…my insurance company gives me a discount for theft protection…yep…the standard transmission. I’m safe from the current crop of clueless car jackers.

For those wondering…yes, she loves winter. Special snow tires and she’s like a mountain goat over even big snow drifts…usually found in my driveway. This picture is from the mountains of Arizona where she ran naked in front. She has a collection of plates from five other states.

My thanks to MN State House (58B) Member Pat Garofalo for help in wading through the huge legislative information about the issue. Here’s hoping he’ll share this with the legislature next session.

Frank Siegler

email: fns@franksiegler.com

blog:  franksiegler.com