BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                        SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
                              Senator Ben Hueso, Chair
                                               


          BILL NO:  AB 244                   HEARING DATE: 6/25/13
          AUTHOR:   Bonilla
          VERSION:  4/24/13
          FISCAL:   Yes
          VOTE:     Majority





                                        SUBJECT  
          
          Vehicles: license plates: veterans.
           
           

                                      DESCRIPTION  
          
           Summary  : 

          Requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet)  
          to sponsor a veterans' special interest license plate and would  
          require the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to  
          issue the veterans' plate if CalVet meets the current statutory  
          requirements.

           Existing law  :

          1.Authorizes a state agency to apply to DMV to sponsor a special  
            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 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 Veterans Service  
            Office Fund (CVSO Fund) - less the DMV costs - to fund the  
            efforts of country veterans service officers (CVSOs).  
            Individual applicants for the plates pay fees for issuance,  
            renewal, or personalization that is additional to those  









            required for nonspecialized plates.

          3.Requires moneys in the CVSO Fund, upon appropriation by the  
            Legislature, to be available to CalVet for allocation and  
            disbursement to counties for the operation of CVSOs.

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

           
          This bill:

           1.Directs CalVet to apply to DMV to sponsor a veterans  
            specialized license plate program, and DMV shall issue license  
            plates for that program if CalVet meets the requirements  
            prescribed in statute for all specialized plate applicants.

          2.Specifies that the design of the veterans specialized license  
            plate shall be identical to the design of the veterans special  
            interest license plate issued pursuant to Vehicle Code section  
            5068, on or prior to January 1, 2010.

          3.Mandates that revenue derived from the additional fees  
            prescribed by Vehicle Code section 5157 for the issuance,  
            renewal, or transfer of the veterans specialized license  
            plates shall be deposited, after the department deducts its  
            administrative costs, in the Veterans Service Office Funds  
            (CVSO Fund), created by Section 972.2 of the Military and  
            Veterans Code.

           
                                     BACKGROUND  
          
           Special interest license plates

           California has a special interest license plate program under  
          which vehicle owners can purchase license plates exhibiting  
          special designs or messages. These plates sold at higher prices  
          than ordinary license plates. The program's primary purpose is  
          to produce additional revenue for the state by making special  
          license plates available for purchase at higher prices than  
          
          AB 244 (Bonilla)                                            2
          










          regular license plates.

          Prior to 2010, DMV offered a specialty license plate only for  
          veterans with the word "Veteran" printed on it. AB 1908 (Cook,  
          2010) transitioned the old veterans license plate to a new  
          "Honoring Veterans" license plate. The change was made to  
          broaden the pool of eligible buyers and boost revenues. The  
          "Honoring Veterans" plate can be purchased by any member of the  
          public, who wishes to support veterans. The change had the  
          unintended effect of denying veterans a license plate, which  
          specifically identifies them as veterans. Veterans and veterans  
          organizations have been asking for reestablishment of a  
          veterans-only plate since AB 1908 went into effect.

           CVSOs/Veterans Service Office Fund

           Established in 1991 by AB 3033 (Conroy), this fund is used by  
          the DMV to deposit fees, minus the administrative costs,  
          transferred from the Motor Vehicle Account (#0044) for the sale  
          of specialized veterans license plates. The money in the fund is  
          used to support CVSO operations. These funds are shared by  
          counties based upon a percentage of budgeted expenditures.  
          (Vehicle Code, Section 5060-5069; Military and Veterans Code,  
          Section 972.2)

          CVSOs are trained, accredited professionals who help veterans  
          and their families navigate the complex federal VA benefit  
          application processes. The CVSOs assist in claims initiation and  
          development and draw down significant federal dollars annually.

          CVSO funding is derived from a combination of local and state  
          resources - with an understanding that it would be split 50/50  
          between the state and local governments. However, during the  
          past decade the state has funded less than half of the program.  
          As a result, a key veterans' resource is weakened and the state  
          loses an opportunity to draw down more federal dollars - perhaps  
          as much as $400 million more than it has been.

          Currently, the counties provide about 85% of the money to fund  
          the CVSOs.  The other 15% ($2.6 million) is provided by the  
          state. This "Local Assistance" allocation has remained roughly  
          the same for 18 years and is inadequate to properly fund the  
          
          AB 244 (Bonilla)                                            3
          










          CVSOs.
          The CVSO program is a joint effort of state and local  
          government. Counties pay 50% of the cost of their CVSOs. At the  
          time this arrangement was established, 50% was $5 million. Now  
          that percentage equals $11 million.
           

                                       COMMENT  
          
           Committee staff comments  :

          If AB 244 is signed into law, both the "Honoring Veterans" and  
          "Veterans" plate will be available.  Revenues from both plate  
          sales will go toward funding CVSOs.

           Related current legislation  :

           SB 296 (Correa, pending Senate Appropriations Suspense, 2013)
            Appropriates $9 million to CalVet and designates the  
            allocation of those funds between the CVSOs ($7.6 million) and  
            veteran service organizations ($1.4 million).

           AB 110 (Blumenfield, pending Governor's review, 2013) 
            The State Budget Bill appropriates $5.6 million (a one-time $3  
            million increase) as the state's contribution to counties  
            toward compensation and expenses of CVSOs (Budget Item  
            8955-101-0001-F).

           Related Past Legislation

            AB 1550 (Bonilla, Ch. 398, Stats. 2012)
            Increases the fees required to issue, renew, and personalize  
            veterans' license plates as follows: $50 for issuance (from  
            $30), $78 for personalization (from $40), and $40 for renewal  
            (from $30). The fees for the veteran plate had not been  
            updated since 1992; this bill brought the veterans plate fee  
            into line with DMV's other specialized plates.

           AB 1908 (Cook, Ch. 166, Stats. 2010)
            Authorized CalVet to modify the distinctive designs of  
            veterans' plates (created the "honoring veterans" special  
            interest license plate) and the associated decals, but  
          
          AB 244 (Bonilla)                                            4
          










            prohibits DMV from issuing the new plates or decals until it  
            has issued all existing inventories of plates and decals.

           AB 84 (Leslie, Ch. 454, Stats. 2006)
            Excludes private organizations from seeking special interest  
            license plates as a forum for private speech.  Plates and the  
            revenue they generate must publicize or promote a state  
            agency, or the official policy, mission, or work of a state  
            agency.  The process requires that at least 7,500 paid  
            applications be received by the state agency prior to  
            notifying DMV.

           AB 3033 (Conroy, Ch. 1275, Stats.1992)
            Established the special interest license plate program for  
            veterans.


                                       POSITIONS 
          
          Sponsor:  Author.

          Support:  American Legion-Department of California
                    AMVETS-Department of California
                    California Association of County Veterans Service  
          Officers
                    California State Commanders Veterans Council
                    VFW-Department of California 
                    Vietnam Veterans of America-California State Council

          Oppose:   None received.
          
          Analysis by: Wade Cooper Teasdale










          
          AB 244 (Bonilla)                                            5