BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 244
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          Date of Hearing:   April 22, 2013

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
                               Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
                 AB 244 (Bonilla) - As Introduced:  February 6, 2013
           
          SUBJECT  :  License plates:  veterans' special interest license  
          plate

           SUMMARY  :  Establishes procedures for special interest license  
          plates for veterans of the nation's military armed forces who  
          can satisfactorily prove that they are a military veteran.    
          Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Establishes procedures for the issuance of special interest  
            license plates to a veterans' organization and requires the  
            issuance of the plates by the California Department of Motor  
            Vehicles (DMV) if the veterans' organization meets the minimum  
            requirements of the special interest license plate program.   
            Requires the license plate to bear a distinctive design or  
            decal that is approved under established criteria.  

          2)Authorizes the license plates to be issued in a combination of  
            numbers or letters, or both, as requested by the applicant, in  
            addition to the design or decal.  

          3)Prohibits an applicant from being issued the special interest  
            license plates unless the applicant can satisfactorily prove  
            veteran status.  

          4)Authorizes a veteran already issued a veterans' special  
            interest license plate on or before January 1, 2012, to be  
            issued a new special interest license plate for veterans only  
            without providing proof of veteran status.  

          5)Establishes special fees as specified for applying for the  
            special interest license plates.  

          6)Requires that the revenues from the additional fees, less the  
            administrative costs of DMV, be deposited in the county  
            Veterans Service Office (CVSO) Fund.  

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Authorizes a state agency to apply to DMV to sponsor a special  








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            interest license plate program and requires DMV to issue the  
            special interest license plates for the program if the state  
            agency complies with specified requirements.  

          2)Establishes DMV to, among other duties and responsibilities,  
            register vehicles for operation or non-operation in the state.  
             

          3)Allows any registered owner of a vehicle to apply to DMV for  
            veterans' organization license plates for his or her vehicle.   


          4)Establishes special interest license plate procedures for  
            veteran organizations and allows a veterans' organization to  
            apply for a veterans' special interest license plate, the  
            proceeds of which are deposited into the CVSO Fund, less the  
            DMV costs.  Applicants for the special interest license plates  
            pay fees for issuance, renewal, or personalization that is  
            additional to those required for nonspecialized license  
            plates.  

          5)Requires money in the CVSO Fund to be available, upon  
            appropriation by the Legislature, to the California Department  
            of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for allocation and disbursement to  
            counties for the operation of CVSOs.  

          6)Allows DVA to modify the distinctive design or decal for  
            veterans' organization special interest license plates,  
            consistent with existing statutory design criteria.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

           COMMENTS  :  Prior to 2007, any new special interest license plate  
          required specific legislative authorization.  That practice was  
          held to be unconstitutional by the federal courts in that the  
          Legislature approved some of the plates and rejected others,  
          while using no standardized or objective criteria for those  
          decisions.  In response to the court decision, AB 84 (Leslie),  
          Chapter 454, Statutes of 2006, established the current special  
          interest license plate program to provide a forum for government  
          speech that promotes California's state policies.  AB 84  
          excludes private organizations from seeking special interest  
          license plates as a forum for private speech, and thus addresses  
          the court's objection.  Plates now created and the revenue they  
          generate must publicize or promote a state agency, or the  








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          official policy, mission, or work of a state agency.   
          Furthermore, the process requires that at least 7,500 paid  
          applications must be received by the state agency prior to  
          notifying DMV.  The 7,500-application threshold was previously  
          put into statute for special interest license plates and was  
          arrived at in an attempt to assure that DMV's startup costs  
          would be fully covered by the portion of the registration fee  
          surcharge that is directed to DMV and to avoid a proliferation  
          of different types of plates, which can be troublesome from a  
          law enforcement perspective.  

          The author contends that prior to 2010, DMV only offered a  
          "veterans" special interest license plate which could be  
          purchased by persons who serve or previously served in our  
          nation's armed forces.  In actuality, the plates were not  
          exclusive for "veterans-only" as the purchasers of the plates at  
          that time were not limited solely to veterans.  In 2010, in  
          order to garner more widespread appeal and license plate  
          acquisition, legislation was enacted that established an  
          "honoring veterans" license plate, replacing the "veterans-only"  
          plate.  Subsequently, since this change, veterans and veterans  
          groups have been asking for the return of the "veterans-only"  
          plate so they can be specifically identified as veterans who  
          have served their country.  This is especially significant for  
          veterans returning from current wars.  

          This bill would establish separate administrative procedures for  
          the issuance of special interest license plates sponsored by  
          veterans' organizations that would be restricted for purchase by  
          veterans only.  In order to be issued a special interest license  
          plate, an applicant would be required to provide satisfactory  
          proof of military status.   This bill has been introduced at the  
          request of veterans so that they, again, can be specifically  
          identified in a special interest license plate.  The bill is  
          also designed to increase funding to CVSOs to help ensure that  
          veterans have access to their benefits that they have deservedly  
          earned through their military service.  This bill will be in  
          addition to the existing special interest "honoring veterans"  
          license plate.  

          CVSOs provide a valuable resource for California's large  
          population of veterans.  Currently, there are CVSOs in 54 of  
          California's 58 counties that employ over 250 local government  
          employees.  Because CVSOs are located in communities statewide,  
          they are often the initial point of local contact for claimants  








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          (veterans and their families) accessing the veterans' benefit  
          system.  

          Writing is support of this bill, the California Mental Health  
          Directors Association indicates that the bill will generate  
          additional resources to support the valuable local services that  
          CVSOs provide to veterans and their families in terms of free  
          claims assistance, referrals to programs for which veterans may  
          be eligible, and partnering with county mental health  
          departments for veterans assistance with mental health and  
          substance abuse disorders.  

           Author's amendments  :  This bill is problematic in that it would  
          insert the Legislature back into the process of approving new  
          special interest license plates and the establishment of a  
          separate and parallel procedure to the existing special interest  
          license plate program.  However, the author intends to address  
          this issue by taking an amendment in committee that avoids the  
          establishment of separate procedures and, instead, requires DVA  
          to apply to DMV for the special interest license plate pursuant  
          to the existing special interest license plates statutory  
          procedures.  

          Additionally, the amendments will re-establish the license plate  
          design that was issued for "veterans-only" prior to 2010.    
          Although the intent of the author is to re-establish the license  
          plates for veterans only, the amendments no longer require that  
          an applicant show proof of veteran status.  The author may wish  
          to address this omission.  

           Previous veterans' plates legislation  :  AB 1550 (Bonilla),  
          Chapter 398, Statutes of 2012, increased the fees required to  
          issue, renew, and personalize veterans' license plates.  
           
          AB 1908 (Cook), Chapter 166, Statutes of 2010, authorized DVA to  
          modify the distinctive designs of veterans' plates (created the  
          "honoring veterans" special interest license plate) and the  
          associated decals but prohibits DMV from issuing the new plates  
          or decals until it has issued all existing inventories of plates  
          and decals.  

          SB 419 (Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee), Chapter 183,  
          Statutes of 2009, declared that California's 50% share for  
          administering the CVSOs is approximately $11,000,000.  









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          AB 3033 (Conroy), Chapter 1275, Statutes of 1992, established  
          the special interest license plate program for veterans.   

           Related legislation  :  AB 49 (Buchanan) would require the  
          California Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV to  
          sponsor a breast cancer awareness, full-plate graphic license  
          plate.  That bill was approved by this committee on April 15,  
          2013 (16-0 vote).  

          AB 482 (Atkins) would require the California Cultural and  
          Historical Endowment to apply to DMV for the purpose of creating  
          a special interest license plate program using the cartoon  
          character Snoopy.  That bill was approved by the Assembly Arts,  
          Entertainment, Sports, Tourism & Internet Committee on April 9,  
          2013 (4-2 vote).  

          AB 853 (Brown and Linder) would authorize CHP to apply to DMV to  
          sponsor a program for a series of motorsports and  
          auto-enthusiast themed license plates.  That bill is now a  
          two-year bill at the request of the author.  

          AB 1096 (Nestande) would require DMV, in consultation with the  
          Salton Sea Joint Powers Authority, to design and make available  
          for issuance special Salton Sea environmental interest license  
          plates bearing a full-plate graphic design.  That bill is  
          scheduled to be heard by this committee next week.  

          SB 789 (Price) would authorize the California Arts Council to  
          use funds generated by special interest license plate  
          applications for administrative purposes that is currently  
          prohibited.  That bill is set for hearing in the Senate  
          Transportation and Housing Committee on April 23, 2013.  

          AB 610 (Solorio) Chapter 9, Statutes of 2012, allows the  
          Veterinary Medical Board an additional 12 months to accumulate  
          the required 7,500 applications for the establishment of a Pet  
          Lover's special interest license plate.  

          AB 1242 (Achadjian) of 2012, would have authorized the  
          Foundation for California Community Colleges to apply to DMV to  
          sponsor special interest license plates for the National  
          Association for stock car Auto Racing (NASCAR).  That bill was  
          not heard by this committee at the request of the author.  

          AB 1539 (Hayashi) of 2012, would have authorized an  








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          anti-bullying special interest license plate program in support  
          of persons who are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and  
          transgender community.  That bill was not heard by this  
          committee at the request of the author.  

          SB 1018 (Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee), Chapter 39,  
          Statutes of 2012, among other provisions of the budget trailer  
          bill, authorizes DMV, in consultation with the California  
          Department of Parks and Recreation, to design and make available  
          for issuance special interest state parks environmental license  
          plates bearing a full-plate graphic design.  That bill was not  
          heard in this committee.  

          AB 1815 (Emmerson) of 2010, would have authorized the Bureau of  
          Automotive Repair to apply to DMV to sponsor a program for a  
          series of special interest NASCAR license plates.  That bill was  
          approved by this committee on April 19, 2010 (10-1 vote) but was  
          held in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.  

           Double referral  :  This bill is also referred to the Assembly  
          Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          American Legion (co-sponsor)  
          AMVETS (co-sponsor)  
          California Association of County Veterans Service Officers  
          (co-sponsor)  
          California Mental Health Directors Association  
          California State Commanders Veterans Council (co-sponsor)  
          Rural County Representatives of California
          Veterans of Foreign Wars (co-sponsor)  
          Vietnam Veterans of America (co-sponsor)  

           Opposition 
           
          None on file
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :   Ed Imai / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093 











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