BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           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, 




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               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 




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               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 




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               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.