Charities Say Lower Threshold for Specialty Plates Would Lift Donations


STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, – February 19, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — ……Saying it will help with donations, Massachusetts charities want the Legislature to lower the limit on the number of specialty license plates organizations must sell before the Registry of Motor Vehicles will manufacture their plate design.

Charities receive a portion of proceeds from selling a specialty license plate with their moniker on it, but they must have at least 1,500 drivers buy the plate before the RMV will make it. Many organizations cannot reach that mark, and subsequently miss out on thousands of dollars in donations every year, proponents of lowering the limit told lawmakers on the Transportation Committee Wednesday.

Plates bearing symbols for the fight against breast cancer or the Red Sox and Celtics foundations are familiar sites, but there are many organizations that could benefit if the limit was lowered to 500 plates, proponents said.

The Legislature created the specialty plates in 2003 that allow charities to keep a portion of the funds collected. Since they were created, charities have raised more than $75 million, according to Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), who filed the legislation (H 3136) along with Rep. Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin).

However, because of the rigorous application minimums many organizations have been blocked out, Spilka told the committee.

Spilka said advocates do not see a downside to lowering the limit, adding it would not cost the state money. Other states with similar charity plates have lower thresholds. Missouri requires only 200 plates sold, and Georgia will produce a plate with only one request.

Each year, 60 organizations attempt to get plates, Roy said, yet since the plates were launched only 19 have been successful. Five hundred plates, Roy said, is a more manageable threshold.

To make sure it would not cost the state more money, Roy said he researched the issue by visiting MCI Cedar Junction to talk with prison officials who supervise the production of plates by inmates. License plates cost $3.36 per plate to manufacture, and specialty plates are pennies more, according to Roy.

The staff at the prison assured me this will not result in additional costs to the commonwealth, Roy said.

Rep. Christopher Walsh (D-Framingham) asked which charities and non-profit groups would be eligible for the plates. Roy said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia Blue would have the final say.

The registrar reserves the right to reject a plate, if it causes certain problems, Roy said.

ALF-CIO President Steven Tolman said many charities are missing an opportunity to raise much-needed funds. The AFL-CIO is pursuing a pro-labor plate with the word Solidarity across the bottom. Besides raising donations, the plates could raise awareness and civic engagement for a cause, Tolman said.

A handful of lawmakers testified in favor of the bill, including Reps. Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge), Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) and Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Kuros said local communities could benefit if the number of plates that need to be sold was lower. Local libraries often lament an inability to raise money, Kuros said. Local friends of the library groups could sell plates to make money, he said.

By Colleen Quinn


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