Are Washington License Plates Promoting Wine Inappropriate?
Apparently, 47 different choices are just not enough, so the Washington state Legislature may give some Washington drivers the ability to be even more special.
The house has already passed the resolution raising the number of license plate choices from 47 to 51. If approved by the Senate, Washington motorists could buy commemorative plates featuring the WNBA Champion Seattle Storm, a scenic representation of the San Juan Islands, another environmental backdrop with Mt. St. Helens and a wine themed plate which would help the Washington Wine Commission and benefit the wine science facility at WSU Tri-Cities.
Some lawmakers however, aren't too keen on that last one as inherently, they say, it sends the wrong message about drinking and driving and they further criticized promoting alcohol.
Those in favor of the vino plate choice broke open the pun bag with retorts like, "whine" and "sour grapes."
But one Bothell Democrat, Rep. Derek Stanford was blunt, "The plate sends the wrong message, I don’t think it makes sense to be putting a license plate about wine onto cars.” he said.
Chris Loftis, media officer for the Washington State Patrol, called the plate an “interesting dichotomy and ironic in some ways....but we will work with whatever is approved....we’re the State Patrol...we don’t have opinions, we have responsibilities...it really doesn’t matter what plate is on the back of the car, we’re watching the behavior on the road and doing all we can to keep impaired drivers off the road.”
Nonprofits, professional sports teams working with a nonprofit, and government agencies must collect 3,500 signatures and pay a $6,300 start-up fee to the Department of Licensing before asking the Legislature for a new plate. Specialty plates for drivers cost an extra $40 for new plates, on top of licensing fees, and another $30 annually to renew.
Eight schools in the state have their own license plate with Washington State University’s plate the most popular specialty plate in the state with more than 22,000 in use. That’s more than double those for the University of Washington. EWU's plate was approved in 1996, Gonzaga's in 2006.
The Seattle Seahawks' 15,000 plates lead the state’s professional sports teams. The Seattle Sounders plate has more than 2,000 supporters. The Mariners have a new edition this year that is expected to bring their total to about 1500.
Other plates benefit state parks and wildlife conservation groups, military veterans, service personnel and other special interests. Even you-gotta-be-kidding-me niche activities like square dancing or tennis can be displayed.
More than 8 million vehicles are registered in Washington and just over 140,000 have specialty plates. Specialty plates accounted for $5.3 million in revenue in fiscal 2018.