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Lawmakers tighten rules on car plates

Sat., March 24, 2012

Issuers would need better documentation

BOISE – If former Idaho congressman Bill Sali came back to the Legislature next year to pitch his proposal for a special “In God We Trust” license plate to benefit his new nonprofit heritage education group, he wouldn’t qualify under legislation that headed to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk on Friday.

The bill, SB 1243a, is an amended version of Sen. Jim Hammond’s measure to limit future specialty license plates in Idaho to those that benefit government functions. That part’s gone, under House amendments, but a new clause was added, requiring any nonprofit agency that applies for a new specialty plate to “submit evidence to the department that the applicant has 501(c)(3) federal income tax status that has been in existence for at least two years.”

Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the Senate on Friday that the House-amended version of his bill is “not nearly as good of a bill as it used to be, but it still has some value.” In addition to the two-year rule for nonprofits, the amended bill requires an annual accounting to the state from all organizations receiving specialty license plate fees, showing how the funds were spent.

“I think that’s of value,” Hammond said after the Senate’s overwhelming vote to approve the amended bill. “We’re collecting money for a private organization. They ought to have some history of managing their funds correctly, if we’re going to be working with them with public funding.”

Sali got a bill introduced in February to fund his new nonprofit organization, the American Heritage Foundation, through a new Idaho specialty license plate that would bear the motto “In God We Trust.” The foundation, which Sali and his wife, Terry, formed on Jan. 25, will work to educate the public about “foundational principles and history of the United States,” the bill says. Sali said it’ll do things like give away copies of the Constitution.

The group would get $22 from every “In God We Trust” license plate sold in Idaho, and $12 from each renewal. But Sali’s bill never came up for a committee hearing, rendering it likely dead as lawmakers push to adjourn their session next week.

Idaho’s 30 specialty license plates raise $1.6 million a year for the various groups that benefit from them.

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