A proposal to provide new license plates to Oklahoma drivers passed the state House in mid-March and is expected to gain Senate approval without significant opposition. The legislation will provide new metal license plates " not just press-on renewal stickers " for an estimated 3.1 million vehicles in the state.
Supporters of the bill have said that current Oklahoma tags are aging, fading and losing their light reflectivity, making them difficult to see for police and other motorists. The current design has been used since 1993, and many older vehicles still bear the tags issued at the time of original registration. The legislation will apply only to regular tags, not personalized or tribal plates.
According to the author of House Bill 3326, Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, the cost of manufacturing the new plates will be more than covered by the registrations of deadbeat motorists who so far have managed to evade detection for expired or fake stickers on old plates. Up to $6.2 million in additional motor vehicle tax collections are anticipated in the first two years from them alone. Furthermore, vehicle owners who wish to keep their current tag numbers will be charged a $15 per-plate fee, which is projected to generate another $2.1 million for the state.
I truly hope this all works out the way it's supposed to. Never mind my own pessimism that tax evaders who can't cheat one way will find some other method to avoid paying their own fair share. What this plan won't do is make it any easier to look at the incredible array of license plates on state roads and tell from a distance how many of them actually represent Oklahoma registrations.
Undoubtedly with the best of intentions, Oklahoma legislators have authorized over the years a crazy quilt of license plate laws, permitting previous designs and vintage plates on some vehicles, allowing personalized plates, and approving specialty plates by the handfuls.
Motorists can purchase specialty plates that feature colleges and universities; military service and honors; the search for cures for specific diseases; civic organizations; wildlife conservation; and sports, hobbies and interests.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission Web site lists 182 available special plates, including 38 variations of NASCAR plates that honor specific drivers. In addition, most American Indian tribes located in the state offer their own unique plates to tribal members, adding about 30 more design and color variations to state bumpers.
So much for uniformity, with or without new plates.
Here's my proposal for the future: Since Oklahoma will never again have a single tag design as "the" state license plate, let's plunge willy-nilly into the opposite direction. Let's cash in on the popularity and additional fees of personalized and specialty tags to provide the "Super Personal Special Create-a-Plate." For an additional hefty price on top of normal vehicle registration fees, a motorist could design his or her own tag " not only with a combination of words, letters or numbers, but including a favorite photo or piece of art. For example, I might choose to feature a photograph of my dog Annie, along with some suitable word combo that I think is terribly clever and others will find devoid of meaning or incredibly stupid. Oklahoma collects the money, I get the car tag of ultimate personal expression and the rest of the world remains largely befuddled about where the vehicle is registered.
In other words, everything remains pretty much the same in Oklahoma, the "State of Confusion."
Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Norman.