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NO. 85. AN ACT RELATING TO SPECIAL MOTOR VEHICLE NUMBER PLATES.

(S.296)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 23 V.S.A. § 304(b) is amended to read:

(b) The authority to issue special motor vehicle number plates or receive applications or petitions for special number plates for safety organizations and service organizations shall reside with the commissioner. Determination of compliance with the criteria contained in this subsection shall be within the discretion of the commissioner. Series of number plates for safety and service organizations which are authorized by the commissioner shall be issued in order of approval, subject to the operating considerations in the department as determined by the commissioner. The commissioner shall issue special number plates marked with initials, letters or combination of numerals and letters, in the following manner:

(1) *[At]* Except as otherwise provided, at the request of the registrant of any motor vehicle, upon application and upon payment of an annual fee of $20.00 in addition to the annual fee for registration. He or she may not issue two sets of special number plates bearing the same initials or letters unless the plates also contain a distinguishing number. Special number plates are subject to reassignment if not renewed within sixty days of expiration of the registration.

(2) For the purposes of this subdivision, "safety organizations" shall include groups which have at least 100 instate members in good standing and provide police and fire protection, rescue squads, national guard, together with those organizations required to respond to public emergencies. It shall include amateur radio operators licensed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. For purposes of this subdivision, "service organization" includes any group which (i) has as a primary purpose, service to the community through specific programs for the improvement of public health, education, or environmental awareness and conservation, and are not limited to social activities; (ii) has nonprofit status under Section 501(c)(3) or (10) of the United States Internal Revenue Code, as amended; (iii) is registered as a nonprofit corporation with the office of the secretary of state; and (iv) except for a military veterans group, has at least 100 instatemembers in good standing. "Service organization" also includes congressionally chartered and noncongressionally chartered United States military service veterans groups.

(A) At the request of the leader of a safety organization or service organization, upon application and payment of an annual fee of *[$20.00]* $10.00 for each set of plates in addition to the annual fee for registration, special plates indicating membership in one of the "safety organizations" or "service organizations" may be issued to registrants of *[pleasure cars and other]* vehicles registered at the pleasure car rate and of trucks registered for not more than 8,099 pounds who are members of these organizations. The applicant must provide a written statement from the appropriate official of the organization, authorizing the issuance of the plates.

(B) At the time that an organization requests the plates, it shall deposit *[$2,000.00]* $1,000.00 with the commissioner. *[to be]* Notwithstanding section 502 of Title 32, the commissioner may charge the actual costs of production of the plates against the fees collected and the balance shall be deposited in the transportation fund. For each set of plates issued, *[$20.00]* $10.00 of this deposit shall be *[applied as]* deemed to be the safety organization or service organization special plate fee for each authorized applicant. When the initial deposit of *[$2,000.00]* $1,000.00 is depleted, applicants shall be required to pay the *[$20.00]* $10.00 annual fee as provided for in subdivision (b)(1) of this section. Notwithstanding section 502 of Title 32, the commissioner may charge the actual costs of production of the plates against the fees collected and shall remit the balance to the transportation fund. No organization shall charge its members any additional fee or premium charge for the authorization, right or privilege to display these special number plates. This provision shall not prevent any organization from collecting $10.00 from each of the first 100 applicants for the special plates to recover the cost of the $1,000.00 deposit.

(C) *[The]* After consulting with representatives of the safety or service organization, the commissioner shall determine the design of the special plates *[after consulting with representatives of the safety organizations. A safety]*, on the basis that the primary purpose of motor vehicle number plates is vehicle identification. An organizationapplying for a special plate under this subsection shall present the commissioner with a name and emblem that is not obscene, offensive or confusing to the general public and does not promote, advertise or endorse a product, brand or service provided for sale, or promote any specific religious belief or political party. The organization's name and emblem must not infringe or violate trademarks, trade names, service marks, copyrights or other proprietary or property rights and the organization must have the right to use the name and emblem. The organization shall designate an officer or member to act as the principal contact and to submit a distinctive emblem for use on a special number plate, if authorized. An organization may have only one design, regardless of the number of individual organizational units within the state that may provide the same or substantially similar services. Nothing herein shall be construed as authorizing any individual squad, department or unit to request a unique or specially designed plate different than the plate designed by the commissioner.

(D) When an individual's membership in a qualifying organization ceases or is terminated, the individual shall surrender any special registration plates issued under this subsection to the commissioner forthwith.

Sec. 2. 23 V.S.A. § 304(d) is amended to read:

(d) Special number plates whether new or renewed shall be issued in any combination or succession of numerals and letters provided the total of the numbers and letters on any plate taken together does not exceed seven, and further provided the requested combination of letters and numerals does not duplicate or resemble a regular issue registration plate. The commissioner may refuse to honor any request that might be offensive or confusing to the general public. The commissioner may revoke any special plate that is found to be offensive or confusing to the general public.

Sec. 3. 23 V.S.A. § 304(j) is added to read:

(j) The commissioner of motor vehicles shall, upon proper application for a new or renewed registration, issue special plates to Vermont veterans, as defined in 38 U.S.C. § 101(2), for use only on vehicles registered at the pleasure car rate and on trucks registered for not more than 8,099 pounds. Applicants shall apply on forms prescribed bythe commissioner and the applicant's status as a veteran shall be certified by the Veterans' Administration or by other documentation as required by the commissioner. The type and style of the veterans' plate shall be determined by the commissioner, except that an American flag shall appear on one side of the plate. An annual fee of $10.00 shall be assessed in addition to the annual fee for registration. The plates shall be reissued only to the original holder of the plates or the surviving spouse. Notwithstanding section 502 of Title 32, the commissioner may charge the actual costs of production of the plates against the fees collected and shall remit the balance to the transportation fund. The commissioner shall adopt rules to implement the provisions of this subsection.

Sec. 4. 23 V.S.A. § 304b(a) is amended to read:

(a) The commissioner shall upon application, issue conservation registration plates for use only on vehicles registered at the pleasure car rate and on trucks registered for not more than 8,099 pounds. Plates so acquired, shall be mounted on the front and rear of the vehicle. The commissioner of motor vehicles and the commissioner of fish and wildlife shall determine the graphic design of the special plates in a manner which serves to enhance the public awareness of the state's interest in restoring and protecting its nongame wildlife and major watershed areas. Applicants shall apply on forms prescribed by the commissioner and shall pay an initial fee of $20.00 in addition to the annual fee for registration. In following years, in addition to the annual registration fee, the holder of a conservation plate shall pay a renewal fee of $20.00. The commissioner shall adopt rules under 3 V.S.A. chapter 25 to implement the provisions of this subsection.

Sec. 5. 23 V.S.A. § 308 is amended to read:

§ 308. SUSPENSION AND REVOCATION OF REGISTRATION

The commissioner may suspend or revoke the registration of any motor vehicle, registered in this state, and repossess *[himself of]* the number plates assigned to it, when he or she is satisfied that:

(1) Such vehicle has been stolen and that the registrant thereof has no legal title thereto; or

(2) Such vehicle is in such poor mechanical condition as to make its operation anduse a menace or danger; or

(3) Such vehicle is operated without proper equipment after the owner thereof has been notified to procure and use such equipment as is required by law or department regulations; or

(4) The owner of such motor vehicle has perpetrated some fraud upon the motor vehicle department; or

(5) The owner of such motor vehicle is an habitual user of intoxicating liquor to excess; or

(6) The number plates were erroneously issued; or

(7) Suspension or revocation is authorized under any other provision of law.

Sec. 6. FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES 100th ANNIVERSARY

(a) It is the intention of this section to commemorate the 100 years between 1898 and 1998 during which the Fraternal Order of Eagles has existed. In order to provide an appropriate tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, it is the purpose of this section to authorize the design, purchase, sale and display of commemorative motor vehicle license plates bearing the message "Fraternal Order of Eagles. 100th Anniversary 1898-1998."

(b) The Fraternal Order of Eagles is authorized to design, produce, purchase, distribute and sell commemorative motor vehicle license plates as described in subsection (a) of this section. Plates shall not be produced, sold, distributed or displayed which are not approved by the commissioner.

(c) Residents of the state of Vermont may display one approved commemorative plate on the front of any motor vehicle registered at the pleasure car rate and on trucks registered for not more than 8,099 pounds. The commemorative plates shall not be used instead of regular registration plates, nor are they required to be displayed on a motor vehicle. The commemorative plate may be displayed by covering the front registration plate with the commemorative plate until December 31, 2001. The regular front registration plate shall not be removed. The rear registration plate shall be in place and clearly visible at all times.

(d) The retail price shall be established by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Sec. 7. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on July 1, 1998, except this section and Sec. 6 (Fraternal Order of Eagles), which shall take effect upon passage, and Sec. 3 (special Vermont veterans plates), which shall take effect on November 11, 1998. Sec. 6 shall expire on January 1, 2002.

Approved: April 14, 1998