Drill, Baby Drill
Single License Plates a Unifying Issue for Enthusiasts
By Colby Martin
For most of the country's automotive enthusiasts, drilling holes into the front bumper of their prized possession is both a sad and unavoidable occurrence. To them, the legal mandate to equip a license plate on their front bumper is like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. While many associate this dilemma with classic cars, many of their modern counterparts are also adversely impacted. The fact is, a great number of cars and trucks simply weren't designed with forward-facing license plates in mind, including the recent Mustangs, Challengers, Corvettes and even Teslas to name a few. Fortunately for fans of these models, an ever-growing legislative trend could make their bumpers whole again.
In any given year, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) seeks to impact hundreds of legislative proposals, however, no topic garners more consistent grassroots enthusiasm at the state level than single-plate license proposals. Single, rear-mounted plates are one of the rare issues that resonate with all types of enthusiasts—from antique collectors and street rodders to modern exotic and musclecar fans. These niches of the hobby are unified by a passion to protect the appearance and behavior of specialty vehicles. While influencing the legislative process may often seem unapproachable, the popularity of single plate proposals stems in part because they present a simple and easy to articulate legislative solution: 50 states with 50 single plates.
License plates—the number and types of plates issued—are regulated at the state level. As of the beginning of this year, passenger vehicles in 32 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are required to display two license plates. Fortunately, 2019 represented the start of a new legislative session, with hundreds of fresh faces in statehouses. This has led to a push to enact single-plate laws across the country. In fact, a record 10 states have considered legislative proposals aimed at the single-plate issue.
The biggest legislative success for removing front plates this year came in Ohio, where allies were found in the state capitol. Each year Ohio's legislature is tasked with passing an omnibus transportation budget bill that determines everything from the gas tax rate to highway infrastructure spending improvements. Despite being a long shot, the single license-plate provision was offered for inclusion in the final bill—and ultimately accepted! Starting in 2020, the around 5 million vehicles driven on the Ohio roadways will no longer need a front plate.
Ohio wasn't the only state seeking to get in on the action. A slew of bills attempted to remove the requirement to display a front plate on all passenger vehicles. Single-plate legislation in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Texas and Utah failed to pass earlier this year. Sadly, none of these states saw their proposals gain serious traction before running out of gas. The good news? Motorists in the province of New Brunswick are no longer required to display a front plate on passenger vehicles and light trucks. The pro-hobby rule took effect July 15, 2019. With sessions winding down coast-to-coast, single-plate advocates may have to wait until next year for more legislative victories.
While many state legislatures were considering a transition from two plates to one, New Mexico was the lone state to consider going in the opposite direction. After the flooding of fierce opposition to the addition of a front plate, the bill failed to receive any consideration on the House floor and was killed as the session concluded in March. This is the second year in a row that New Mexico legislators attempted to institute a front-plate mandate only to discover they had severely underestimated the popularity of the current policy.
One of the most interesting developments in the past year has been the rise in the number of states looking into a single-plate exemption for specialty vehicles. The major advantage of these compromise bills is that they drum up less opposition from detractors and thus stand a greater likelihood of becoming law. In 2016, Nebraska passed a law allowing owners of vehicles not originally equipped with a front bracket to request a single license plate. The successful implementation and widespread positive feedback from vehicle owners on this new policy has spurred similar compromise legislation this session in Connecticut and Iowa. The Iowa bill only narrowly failed to pass the legislature, and Connecticut's bill did not advance from its committee of jurisdiction. Thankfully, Rhode Island enacted a new law allowing vehicles with "year of manufacture" (YOM) tags to display a single, rear-mounted plate. All motor vehicles 25 model years old and older will be eligible.
The largest barrier to single-plate enactment is opposition from law-enforcement officials who contend front plates are a necessary part of their ability to identify vehicles. However, this need may soon be a thing of the past as the technology to create digital license plates is already here. Plus, the two-plate state governments would save administration and production costs, especially without needing to create front tags nor replace those damaged or missing. With greater technology available for vehicle identification, the future for single plate legislation and front bumpers without holes may eventually look smoother—keeping a watchful eye on proposed policies is a must.
SEMA Ignited 2019 Invitation: Exclusive to SAN Members
SEMA Action Network (SAN) members, time to make plans! In special recognition of your continued support on legislative issues important to the automotive hobby, we are inviting you to SEMA Ignited, the “Official After-Party” of the SEMA Show, FREE OF CHARGE (a $20 value). Join us as we celebrate the top cars built for display at the trade-only SEMA Show. Meet exhibitors, industry icons and SEMA Battle of the Builders® contestants. Enjoy live drifting demonstrations, music, food trucks and much more! SEMA Ignited will be held in the same location as last year at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) Platinum Lot—located on the east side of LVCC—on Friday, November 8th starting at 3:00 pm.
You will also be able to register up to 10 guests to join you at SEMA Ignited, compliments of the SAN. Use the following personalized link below to confirm your party’s attendance.
Registration deadline is October 14, 2019 for your complimentary passes to SEMA Ignited courtesy of the SAN. We hope to see you in Las Vegas!
Thank you to those who have expressed an interest in attending the SEMA Show. No access to the trade-only convention will be made available to the general public this year.
SEMA SAN STRIKE FORCE
"To keep the hobby alive, it is really important to put the vehicles that we drive and enjoy exposed and available to the general public," explains Don Amundson. As such, he and his wife took their Sheltie puppy out to celebrate Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD) earlier this year at Fife, Washington's Pick Quick Drive-in. Don says the landmark opened in 1949 and is one of the state's oldest drive-ins still operated by the same family. "For me and my friends—while we may not travel as a group for the holiday—we still make an effort to pick out a venue that is relative to some aspect of the hobby." For the occasion, the family drove their "survivor" 1959 Dodge Coronet 2-door. "Painted in Coral and White, the car is 100% original and I'm the second owner!" Its powered by a 326 cu. in. engine with polyspherical heads and has a two-speed push-button transmission.
"I've been all about Mopar offerings since 1976," Don recalls. His first collector car was a 383 Magnum 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner convertible. It was sold to raise funds for the purchase of his first street rod. In 1983, the family took a memorable five-week trip to Virginia with a 16-foot car trailer in tow. The reason? Picking up a 1934 Plymouth PE deluxe 2-door sedan. Not surprisingly, his stable runs Mopar powerplants, such as the 318 and 360 cu. in. engines. He even dropped a 1970 'Cuda 340 cu. in. V8 into a custom 1939 Plymouth. Don finished his last personal street rod in 2012, which now has about 15,000 miles to date. Currently, he's helping his second son with a street rod—a 1929 Model A sedan delivery.
Don is no stranger to supporting the hobby through automotive groups either. He's held the position of secretary-treasurer in the Valley Drifters Cruisin' Association for nearly 37 years. Membership in the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) dates back to 1981. He served as an NSRA State Safety Inspector between 1982-1992 and was awarded "Top Ten" nationally in seven of those years. He returned to the post a second time in 2017 but retired at the end of 2018. At 5,569 total inspections, his current lifetime count is impressive. While he has remained on the safety team as an inspector, Don assumed a vacant position as the NSRA's Western Washington Street Rod Division Representative in January, 2019. "I personally recognized the potential value of the SEMA Action Network (SAN) from the beginning. Due to a lot of hard work and participation by supporters, our organization has become recognized in a positive manner!"
So true, Don. Thank you for continuing to leave your mark on our automotive family!