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Proposed Changes To New Florida License Plate Put On Hold

Sascha Cordner

Florida could be losing at least $4 million a year in fines because the state’s license plates are too hard to read. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles had planned to address the problem through a redesign of the tags. But, opposition from the state’s tax collectors caused the department to reassess the proposal at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Millions of dollars in fines are going uncollected in Florida because the current license plates are hard for toll and red light cameras to read. So, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles proposed to make them completely flat and easier to read instead of the current raised surfaces. But, last week, the proposal was met with opposition from a group of the state’s tax collectors, who took issue with how the plates might be distributed:

“There really is no evidence that it will save our customers money or it will increase efficiency and changing the distribution center," said Anne Gannon, Tax Collector for Palm Beach County. "I think it’s the opposite of what every tax collector thinks their agency should do. We are the voice of the Department of Motor Vehicles in our communities, and we do believe is that customer service is where we need to be. It works for us, it more importantly works for our clients, it works across the state.”  

Tax collectors in each of the 67 counties would normally be in charge of distributing the new plates. But, the department proposed using a private contractor.

The proposal was slated for approval at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, but the executive director of the state Department of Motor Vehicles Julie Jones removed the item from consideration, saying she will reassess the proposal and bring it before the Cabinet at a later time.

Jones says she did not anticipate the amount of resistance that she got from the tax collectors, but she says she understands how they might feel threatened:

“Tax collectors are, especially the tax collector community, is very passionate about the customer service and the ability to give their customers good customer service, and they look at me when I talk about wait times at our offices, and say they give better customer service," said Jones. "So, I can see why they’re a little nervous about changing the business model, and that’s why I need to be more specific with them before I continue the dialogue.”

And, Attorney General Pam Bondi says Jones made the right call.

“I’m glad she pulled it back. We’re not ready for a final decision," she said. "I think a lot more needs to be discussed among all the parties. I’ve been very actively involved in that. I’ve met with her. My staff has met with tax collectors and before we do anything on this, we have to make sure it’s the right route for consumers and the taxpayers.”

So far, Jones says she wants to continue working with the state’s prison industry, which makes the current license plates. But, she says that doesn’t rule out considering bids from private vendors, especially because she’s heard from other interested parties.

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

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.