CONCORD — A proposal to introduce a special license plate commemorating the 100th running of Motorcycle Week in 2023 has met with resistance from the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which claims that there is neither the authority nor the capacity to undertake the project.
Charlie St. Clair, the executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, suggested that the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) begin issuing special plates, bearing the logo of the association in advance of the centennial. The proceeds from sale of the plates, less the cost of manufacturing and issuing them, would benefit the LMWA, which in turn would apply the funds to promoting and managing the rally.
This year Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) introduced legislation (Senate Bill 252) establishing a committee to study issuing a plate to commemorate Motorcycle Week without specifying how the proceeds from issuing the plates would be allocated. At the same time, bills were filed to issue special plates for the Civil Air Patrol, circuit court judges and breast and pediatric cancer as well as a motorcycle plate for disabled veterans.
The bill proposing plates for beast and pediatric cancer — House Bill 567 — provided for nonprofit corporations to apply to the DMV to issue at least 1,000 plates. All proceeds in excess of manufacturing and administrative costs would be distributed to the applicant on the understanding that they would be spent for the benefit of New Hampshire residents. The bill was retained by the Transportation Committee.
Many states issue special license plates for the benefit of various nonprofit organizations – but not New Hampshire. Although New Hampshire issues the conservation (moose) plate and the state park plate as well as a combination of the two, it does not issue plates for the benefit of private organizations as contemplated by St. Clair and the sponsors of HB 567.
In commenting on HB 567, the Department of Safety said that the DMV is in the process of replacing several of its operating systems, including those associated with driver licensing, financial responsibility, auto dealerships and inspection stations and added that diverting resources to issue a special plate could jeopardize its ability to complete this project within its current appropriation.
Hosmer said that when the study committee met, officials of the Department of Safety questioned whether applying proceeds from the sale of state license plates to private nonprofit organizations would pass constitutional muster and said that the DMV lacked the technology to issue special plates to a multiplicity of nonprofit organizations. "It looks like a non-starter," Hosmer said of the notion of issuing a special plate for Motorcycle Week to benefit the LMWA.
In 2004, the Legislature authorized the director of the Division of Motor Vehicles to adopt rules for designing, selling and distributing special plates by cities and towns to mark the anniversary of their founding or "similar special occasion" in their history. These plates could be mounted in place of the front license plate for not more than the one year during which the celebration takes place.
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