21 new specialty license plates could be coming to Florida

It’s been years since Florida got a new specialty license plate, but 2019 could see the approval of 21 new ones that would raise charitable funds for everything from the Pulse shooting to gopher tortoises to beekeeping to plates for universities outside the state.

The majority of them, though, would be part of a sweeping bill that would also see the elimination of several plates by raising the minimum number of registrations required annually, as well as cap the total number of possible plates in the state at 125.

Most of the proposed plates would raise $25 per tag to go toward a variety of charitable programs. Bills for the 21 new plates have been introduced ahead of the Florida legislative session, which begins March 5 and runs through May 3.

One up for approval is the “Orlando United” plate that would memorialize the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting and support mental health counseling for the survivors.

An Orlando City Soccer Club plate, which would fall under the state’s professional sports teams.

A plate for the Coastal Conservation Association that would read “Conserve Florida’s Fisheries” with funds for habitat enhancement and restoration, saltwater fisheries conservation and education.

A Blue Angels plate which would say “Home of the Blue Angels” and distribute funds to the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

The bill also puts a maximum number of specialty tags at 125, and would not let any new plates be created until others were eliminated to make room under the 125-total cap.

Already this year, one bill was filed and withdrawn that would have created a “Sun Sea Smiles” specialty tag to raise funds for a variety of nonprofit organizations tied to Florida residents of Caribbean descent.

Overall, there are more than 1,550,000 registered specialty tags in the state across 123 designs. 2018 marked the fifth consecutive year for growth in tags, which contribute between $15-$25 per plate annually for various charities associated with the tags.

The last time any new plates were approved by the Florida Legislature was 2014 when the state added plates for Moffitt Cancer Center, Keiser University, Florida Sheriff’s Association and the “A Hero Remembered Never Dies” plate for fallen law enforcement.

Any new specialty tag approved by the Legislature, though, currently has to achieve 1,000 presales before any actual plates are made.

Also, existing specialty tags that fall below 1,000 registered plates in a 12-month period will be pulled from circulation. That threshold, which does not apply to college and university plates, caused the cessation of the American Red Cross plate as well as the Hispanic Achievers and St. Johns River plates.

Richard Tribou is a Senior Content Editor for the Community Conversations Team. He can be reached at rtribou@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5134