State and Fla. Tax Collectors Work To Resolve License Tags Redesign Issue

Oct 26, 2012

A proposal to change Florida’s license plates is now on hold, after the state’s tax collectors raised concerns about the distribution of the new tags.  The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recently tabled the issue, and it’s hoping to hash out a proposal to make sure the redesign of the plates is something everyone wants.

This is the receipt for your driver’s license and your license is printing, and I’ll give it you in just a minute," said a worker at the Leon County Tax Collector's office.

"And, I’ll still get my picture back," asked Lucy Lee, a customer at the Leon County Tax Collector's Office.

"Yes, ma’am," replied the worker.

Lucy Lee came to the Leon County Tax Collector’s office to get her driver’s license renewed. She and her husband Ian have also been going there for their license plate renewals, but that routine could soon stop.  

That’s because the state is looking into redesigning the new tags to make them easier to read for toll and red light cameras. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports it’s been losing out on at least 4-million dollars a year in fines because they can’t read the tags of the moving cars. As part of the proposal to revamp the plates, the department is also looking into changing how the tags are distributed.

“Currently, the plates are directly mailed from the tax collector’s office. And the department, instead of having the tax collector to continue to mail those license plates, want to include or have a private third-party vendor mail those plates.”

Doris Maloy is the Leon County Tax Collector as well as the President of Tax Collectors Incorporated. She’s against the tag change proposal. Maloy says tax collectors, for the most part, are fine with the plate redesign itself, but she says the department’s plan to use a private contractor to distribute the new plates could be bad for customers.

“There would be an increase to the consumer because some counties do not charge a mail-fee to receive their plate to have it mailed to them," said Maloy "Leon County is one of those. We don’t charge a mail-fee. So, for the customers in this county, there would be an increase to them. I, the Tax Collector, would still maintain the same revenue coming in from those transactions, but the customer would pay more.”

And, it’s concerns like that which led Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones to put the proposal on hold at a recent Cabinet meeting.

“I did not anticipate the level of resistance that I got. I felt like I engaged early and often but apparently I didn't engage early and often enough, and I needed more specifics,” said Jones.

Jones’ decision to table the idea has the approval of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi says the state is not ready for a final decision and she’s in talks with both sides to come to an agreement.

“So, we’re going to get the best resolution on this matter, but we don’t need to move fast on it. We need to do what’s right for the taxpayers, and whether this is the right thing to do,” said Bondi.

One way both sides are hoping to come to an agreement is through the creation of a work group that Jones says will include some of the state’s tax collectors, and Doris Maloy says she’s on board.

“We’d like to see a working group to look at the pros and cons of all of this. And, I think once that working group is together and we look at,….to me, the first question would be ‘what are we trying to solve?’ If we’re trying to solve the issue of readability, and we’re trying to solve going to 6 numbers on a plate as opposed to 7 numbers on a plate. Then, let’s sit down and solve that issue. To me, that has nothing do with the distribution of the plates,” said Maloy.

Meanwhile, some customers are skeptical that allowing the distribution to be handled by a different vendor is a bad thing. That includes Lucy Lee, who’s been coming for years to the Tax Collector’s for anything license related:

“I don’t think it’s inconvenient for him to come here and do that. We don’t have to come here too often. So, I guess downsizing government is probably a good thing. Additional fees are not necessarily a good thing," remarked Lee. "The only concern I guess I would have is it being mailed is making sure it comes to the right house. Sometimes our mail does come to somebody else.”

While the redesign of the license plate is still on hold, Floridians can still vote online for a design of their choosing in November. Florida Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Director Jones says she hopes to have a proposal drafted in the next couple of months with the help of the tax collectors. But, she says she is not ruling out working with private contractors.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.