BILL ANALYSIS Ó SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE BILL NO: AB 610 SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN AUTHOR: solorio VERSION: 3/21/2012 Analysis by: Carrie Cornwell FISCAL: yes Hearing date: March 27, 2012 URGENCY: YES SUBJECT: Special interest license plates DESCRIPTION: This bill provides the California Veterinary Medical Board extra time to collect 7,500 prepaid applications and fees in order to establish a special interest license plate. ANALYSIS: Existing law provides for a specialized license plate program, under which the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may issue new special interest license plates only on behalf of state agencies provided that for each state agency: The license plate has "a design or contains a message that publicizes or promotes a state agency, or the official policy, mission, or work of a state agency." The design shall also be confined to the left of and below the numerical series (i.e., no full plate designs allowed). The state agency submits 7,500 applications and accompanying fees to DMV for the license plate. The state agency has 12 months to collect these applications and fees, but it can extend that to a maximum of 24 months if it notifies and offers to refund fees to those that applied during the first 12 months. Once a plate is issued, DMV stops issuing that plate for the agency if the number of plates drops below 7,500. Most plate revenues are used for "projects and programs that promote the state or local agency's official policy, AB 610 (SOLORIO) Page 2 mission, or work." These funds are deposited into the Specialized License Plate Fund and are continuously appropriated to the agency sponsoring the plate. In addition to the usual registration and license fees, DMV charges the following additional fees for specialized license plates: $50 (original), $40 (renewal), $15 (transfer), and $35 (license substitute) and deducts its administrative costs from the revenues generated. A sponsoring state agency may not spend more that 25 percent of its license plate funds for administrative, marketing, and promotional costs associated with the plate, and it must submit an annual accounting report to DMV. This bill : 1. Allows the Veterinary Medical Board (Vet Board), by June 30, 2012, to extend from 24 months to 36 months the maximum amount of time that it may collect prepaid applications for a specialized license plate it is sponsoring. The board must contact vehicle owners who have applied for the plate already and offer to refund the fee they have paid if they do not want to continue to wait for the board to meet the 7,500 threshold and DMV then to produce the plate. 2. Contains an urgency clause. 3. Sunsets its provisions on July 1, 2013. COMMENTS: 1. Purpose of the bill . The author introduced this bill at the request of the Social Compassion in Legislation organization, which since June 2010 in concert with the California Veterinary Medical Board has been promoting sales of the Pet Lover's/California Spay and Neuter Plate in an effort to raise additional funds for the spay and neuter trust fund to distribute grants to eligible agencies throughout the state. The sponsor reports that it and the Vet Board are encountering significant difficulty in meeting the threshold of 7,500 applications for the license plate. This bill provides the Vet Board with an additional year to reach the 7,500 threshold. 2. Urgency measure . The Vet Board began collecting AB 610 (SOLORIO) Page 3 applications and fees for the Pet Lover/Spay and Neuter Plate in June 2010. A year later the Vet Board notified applicants that it was going to continue collecting pre-paid applications for another 12 months and offered to refund their fees. It appears that the Vet Board will not reach the 7,500 threshold by June of this year when the second 12 months concludes. Should this bill, an urgency measure, become law by June 2012, then the Vet Board will be able to again extend collection of applications and fees for another 12 months until June 2013. 3. History of special interest license plates: before 2004 . Historically, the Vehicle Code required DMV to issue, upon legislative authorization, a special interest license plate bearing a distinctive design or decal of a sponsoring organization to any vehicle owner that pays specified fees, provided that the sponsoring organization met certain conditions. These conditions included that the sponsor of a special interest license plate had to collect 7,500 applications and fees for a special license plate in order to pay DMV's costs of creating a new plate, which are approximately $375,000 or 7,500 applications times the $50 fee. 4. History of special interest license plates: since 2004 . In 2004, a federal court decision, Women's Resource Network v. Gourley, E.D. Cal 2004, F.Supp.2d, 2004 U.S. Dist., invalidated the provisions of the Vehicle Code described in comment #2. In the Gourley decision, the court declared California's special interest license plate statutes unconstitutional because they violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The court specifically objected to the Legislature "picking and choosing" special license plates that private organizations propose, in essence promoting the message of some organizations while denying this right to others. The court did allow the ten special interest license plates existing at the time of its decision to remain in use and available to new applicants, as they are today. In response to the court decision, AB 84 (Leslie), Chapter 454, Statutes of 2006, established the current specialized license plate program to provide a forum for government speech that promotes California's state policies. AB 84 excludes private organizations from seeking specialized license plates as a forum for private speech, and thus AB 610 (SOLORIO) Page 4 addresses the court's objection. Plates now created and the revenue they generate must publicize or promote a state agency, or the official policy, mission, or work of a state agency. To date, no license plates have been issued under AB 84's specialized license plate program due to an inability to collect 7,500 paid applications. 5. Second hearing . The committee heard this bill on July 5 of last year, but during that hearing, the committee did not vote on the bill. At that time this bill would have authorized the creation of new special interest license plates with applications and fees from 2,500 vehicle owners for the plate, plus private or public donations to cover the remaining cost of creating the new license plate. Assembly Votes: Floor: 65-7 Appr: 13-4 Trans: 14-0 POSITIONS: (Communicated to the committee before noon on Wednesday, March 21, 2012) SUPPORT: Social Compassion in Legislation (sponsor) Animal Legal Defense Fund Bay Area Open Space Council City of Long Beach City of Los Angeles Hon. Pam Slater-Price, District 3 Supervisor, San Diego County Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association PAW PAC Take Me Home OPPOSED: None received.