House authorizes Oklahoma license plate reissuance plan

By Tim Talley
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 3-08

Oklahoma motorists are a step closer to getting new license plates for the first time in 16 years following state House passage of legislation that would reissue plates to the owners of the estimated 3.1 million cars, trucks and other vehicles registered in Oklahoma.

Without debate, the House approved the plan 95-6 and sent it to the Senate for a vote. Its author, Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, said the legislation will improve public safety, crack down on uninsured drivers and enhance the state’s image.

“I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would be opposed to it,” Miller said. “The worst they can say is you have to change two screws.”

Miller said the new license plates will cost motorists nothing and that the program’s $6 million cost will be paid with the estimated $6.2 million increase in motor vehicle collections from motorists with expired tag fees.

The state also expects to collect another $2.1 million from motorists who pay a $15 fee to reserve their old license plate number.

“When motorists don’t comply with motor vehicle laws, we all pay in the form of higher taxes and insurance rates,” Miller said. “With all general issue plates replaced with a new design in the same calendar year, public safety officials will be better able to catch those that are noncompliant.”

The reissuance would occur when motorists pay their annual license tag fee, Miller said. Instead of getting an updated sticker for their tags, motorists will receive the new license plates.

The plates have a shelf life of about five years before the design material starts to deteriorate, according to state Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Ward.

New plates would allow law enforcement to more easily enforce payment of motor vehicle taxes and also detect and apprehend persons who are using automobiles in criminal activity.

The legislation will also help crack down on uninsured drivers since the new plates will be issued only to those who can produce proof of insurance. According to the Insurance Research Council, 15 percent of Oklahomans were without car insurance in 2006.

“We also have a byproduct, which is public image,” Miller said.

A license plate design task force met over the summer and submitted four options for the new plate.

They include portrayals of two well-known American Indian statues in Oklahoma: the Gilcrease Museum’s Sacred Rain Arrow and The Guardian, which tops the Capitol dome. Also being considered are depictions of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Buffalo Bill Cody statue and a trick-roping cowboy.

Oklahoma has never done a statewide reissue of all plates and is one of only 16 states that have not done a reissue. Miller’s bill directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to reissue license plates every seven years at the request of the Department of Public Safety.