NC Square Dance License Plates!

Click here for the  SQUARE DANCE LICENSE PLATE Application

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 (reprinted) From the (News and Observer) Paper Tuesday, June 24, 1997 edition

More getting the N.C. plate special

As drivers sport their interests, some worry trend is out of hand

BY ANDREW PARK, Staff Writer   Remember when people who wanted the world to know what was on their minds would slap a bumper sticker on the backs of their cars? These days, it seems only a special license plate will do. That is, if one wants to keep up with, for instance, the Folk Round Square Dance Federation of North Carolina. The tag issued to federation members is among 52 group plates put out by the state Division of Motor Vehicles and manufactured at Central Prison in Raleigh. More elaborate and harder to come by than a personalized tag or vanity plate, a special plate has a logo or design that is unique to a college, cause or club. So many special tags have been authorized in recent years that some DMV officials and law enforcement personnel are worried about where the trend is headed. Adding to their concerns is the willingness of the General Assembly to approve bills allowing groups that don’t qualify under the rules to get special plates. At least 10 such bills have been introduced during the current session. Motorists who have special plates say they like being able to spot kindred spirits on the road. “We decided that we needed something to identify square dancers,” said Steve Riggio of Lumberton, president of the square dance federation. Any college, pro sports team or tax-exempt, nationally recognized civic group can get its own special plate. The square dance federation didn’t fit into those categories, so the legislature passed a bill authorizing its plate. This year, it also approved special license plates for county sheriffs and members of the 82nd Airborne Division. “It’s getting to the ridiculous,” said Rep. BillyCreech, a Clayton Republican and critic of the special plates. Creech’s colleagues are still considering bills that would allow special tags for magistrates, Vietnam Veterans, spouses of Purple Heart recipients, Native Americans, supporters of the March of Dimes, soil and water conservationists and admirers of the state’s scenic rivers. Creech, who serves on the Transportation Committee, was one of the few legislators who spoke out against a plate for the spouses of Purple Heart winners. He said he fears more special tags would increase the burden on the beleaguered DMV. “We keep adding more and more work every time we create a new license plate,” said Creech, who is eligible for a special tag issued to members of the General Assembly. “We need to get DMV squared away before we put more work on them.” 300 members and a fee Despite the criticism, the state continues to stamp new plates. On Friday, the Knights of Columbus became the latest civic group to qualify without special legislation. In addition to civic organizations, the state also puts out tags that support wildlife conservation and historic sites such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It takes 300 members to apply and pay the extra $10 to $30 fee. Part of the proceeds go to the college or club or to conservation or preservation funds. The remainder goes to the DMV. Among groups waiting to get enough members to sign up are the Rotary Club, the Future Farmers of America and the United States Power Squadron, which calls itself the world’s largest private boating organization. A host of colleges are still trying to get their own plates, including Meredith College, Shaw University and UNC-Wilmington. Some law enforcement officers say the proliferation of tags with different designs and numbers makes it more difficult to distinguish North Carolina tags from other states’ plates. Already 29,048 vehicles in North Carolina sport one of the 52 special tags, on top of the nearly 174,000 personalized vanity plates that are out there. Carol Howard, who heads the DMV’s vehicle registration section, said the unique letter and number combinations on each special tag cause problems for the agency, too. She said she wonders where the trend will end. “It seems to be getting out of hand,” she said. Howard said she would support an outright moratorium on special tags, or at least a requirement that the state receive a higher number of applications before issuing the tags. Some states require 500 or 1,000 members to apply before a custom plate is produced. For years, the DMV issued special tags for amateur radio operators, government officials, former prisoners of war and members of the National Guard. But an explosion of interest began after the 1991 General Assembly passed the first laws to allow the DMV to issue special plates adorned with logos, nature scenes and historic attractions, along with special prefixes and suffixes and numeric combinations. When square dancers Jimmy and Janie Roberson saw how many plates were being produced, they saw an opportunity to proudly display their hobby. Help from a legislator In 1994, the Robersons submitted to the DMV signatures from 600 federation members who wanted special square dance plates. Eventually, though, the Attorney General’s Office determined that the federation didn’t qualify as a civic club. So the Robersons, who live in Oxford, asked Rep. James Crawford, an Oxford Democrat who attends their church, for help. In 1995, Crawford was successful in getting his bill for a square dance plate approved and the Robersons got the very first one. So far, 534 of the club’s nearly 5,000 square dancers have got them, according to the DMV. And two or three times a month, the Robersons see another car that sports the red, white and blue license plate with the square dancing couple and the “SD” suffix. “I don’t think the lady at the DMV thought we would get enough [applications],” Jimmy Roberson said. “I didn’t have any doubt.”