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Georgia struggles to regulate vanity plates

Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 5:30 PM
Last updated Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 9:18 AM
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GUNME?

It’s outlawed in Georgia.

IMNAKED?

That’s prohibited too.

POTHED has been tried; even BGODLY is on the list of banned vanity tag messages maintained by the state.

Putting seven letters or numbers together is an art form among motorists who personalize their license plates. But Georgia officials have their limits, and the list of forbidden combinations is more than 10,200 entries long and growing.

After an Atlanta hairdresser sued the state in January, accusing it of violating his free speech rights by rejecting tag applications for GAYPWR, GAYGUY and 4GAYLIB, the Department of Revenue is taking over the operation from Driver Services and updating plate standards to include appeals and more elaborate rules.

The new policy – up for adoption at a public hearing in Atlanta on Sept. 20 – would prohibit race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation from being “disparaged,” and for the first time ban references to sex, body parts, excrement, bodily fluids, drugs, alcohol and weapons.

“The responsibility for tag and title has jumped around over the years between the departments of Revenue and Dri­ver Services, and we are working to build a more consistent and clearer process that explains why a request is denied and provides people with an opportunity to appeal any decision,” said Nick Genesi, the communications director for the Department of Revenue.

Personalized plates provide a tiny source of revenue – last year Georgia made only $153,000 from vanity tags, which cost drivers an extra $35 a year. But they are a headache for local regulators, who must strike a balance between protecting free speech and shielding drivers’ eyes from naughty puns.

Georgia’s banned vanity tag list has been worked on for a quarter of a century and has been criticized for being ambiguous.

For example, the state has allowed tags reading 2SEXY69 and GUNZZZ, but put MSSEXI and HVYGUNS on the no-no list. Officials approved HATERS, but denied HATERS1. BLKBERI, BLKCHRY and BLCBUTI were cleared, but BLKACE was rejected.

Genesi said the new regulation aims to solve such problems by requiring the Department of Revenue to review the list of banned messages at least once a year to ensure it is up to date.

“The list is a work in progress (and) will continually change under the new regulation as things gets added or removed,” Genesi said.

The state will continue to outlaw all profanity, messages that violate copyright or trademark laws or pertain to public office, and references to crime that “might reasonably result in an immediate breach of the peace.”

Further, any message that contains “hate, h8, ha8, hat, haytr, aytr, anti, ante, suck, suk, blow, and 69” will be banned. Plus, all local tag agents are required to consult the English dictionary, phonetic spelling and standard foreign language vocabularies to make sure no new requests fall within a prohibited category. (Sorry, motorists who have plates that read IH8UGA and ANTIPC.)

In the past, if a plate was found on the banned list and rejected, the state would only issue a refund. Now, it’s required to provide a written statement explaining both its decision and how an applicant can appeal the ruling within 30 days to a three-person panel selected by the state revenue commissioner. The board must vote unanimously to overturn a ruling, the proposed policy states.

To Genesi, the revisions are both overdue and amusing.

“It’s hard to know,” he said of determining whether all applicants treat their requests seriously. “All we have is the text on paper and, frankly, we can’t really know.”

SEND YOUR CONCERNS

Comments about the new license plate regulations can be sent via e-mail to comments@dor.ga.gov; by fax to (404) 417-2293; or by mail to Georgia Department of Revenue, 1800 Century Blvd N.E., Suite 15107, Atlanta, GA 30345.

BANNED TAGS LIST

See the forbidden combinations, combinations that have been removed from the ban list and the combinations you could possibly see on the road under the new regulations.

WARNING: May contain offensive content.


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Comments (16) Add comment
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Little Lamb
48881
Points
Little Lamb 09/08/13 - 08:28 pm
6
2
Fluff

This story runs once every year or two, mostly to fill up Monday newspapers when they don't want to send a reporter out to dig up some real news, such as the government's attempts to find new fees to gouge us.

It's like the story they run every Thanksgiving telling us how crowded the airline terminals were on Thanksgiving Eve.

Dixieman
17262
Points
Dixieman 09/08/13 - 08:42 pm
9
0
You have to have a really dirty mind...

...to get a job making up the list of banned plates. Can you imagine thinking about what these sequences mean ALL DAY LONG?? I would go nuts in a week.

Little Lamb
48881
Points
Little Lamb 09/08/13 - 09:29 pm
5
1
Flu Shots

Oh, yeah, in a few days we will get a story telling us we are at deadly risk and need to go to the nearest drug store, health clinic, doctors office, emergency room, etc. and get a flu shot. They run this story every fall in September and October.

The trouble is that the typical flu vaccine is effective only for three months or so. So, if you get your flu vaccine in August or September, your immunity has worn off by November. Then, when the flu really gets going in January, you are as vulnerable as if you never had the vaccine at all.

What the doctors tell us is to get your flu shot in mid-November. Then, you've got a chance to be protected when flu season hits in January or February.

When will you read it in a story in this paper?

dichotomy
37379
Points
dichotomy 09/08/13 - 09:57 pm
8
1
I'm just so happy to know

I'm just so happy to know that there are 10,200 things you can elude to in 7 letters that my government thinks I must be protected against seeing. I hope none of you read bumper stickers, T-shirts, watch cable TV, listen to music, or use the internet. Is this the same government that authorizes abortions and makes me pay total life support for every moocher that comes along? I'm so happy they are protecting me against......?????

I, personally, won't give the government one damned extra dollar to buy their permission to drive my car on the roads they build with MY taxes so I don't care if they ban all vanity plates.

rebellious
21814
Points
rebellious 09/08/13 - 11:04 pm
7
1
Thinking about

getting a vanity plate 5EEN1TB4. I might send it to a friend near Hotlanta. I probably isn't banned, but should be!

Just My Opinion
6251
Points
Just My Opinion 09/09/13 - 03:46 am
7
0
So, I get banning offensive

So, I get banning offensive plates. But what about those offensive bumper stickers?? I still remember one that read "More sucking, less fighting!"!! Yeah...try to explain THAT one to your little kid! And while we're on it, what about those trailer hitch things that look like testicles?!? How'd you like to ride for 10 or so miles behind that swinging in front of you, before you could pass him?

CobaltGeorge
175257
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/09/13 - 04:35 am
2
4
I Wonder

how long it will be before my painted tail gate, 2nd Amendment, American Flag and AR-15 offends someone and it gets banned?

I have had a few finger votes disapproving it.

Riverman1
93323
Points
Riverman1 09/09/13 - 04:57 am
7
1
Go Cocks

Sean Moores should get the job looking for the double entendres. Seriously, almost every custom license plate is a double entendre. Shifting the supervision of the names back and forth between Revenue and Driver Services shows how impossible the censorship task is. Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder.

Should a South Carolina fan be able to say “Go Cocks”? I can see the people who handle the appeals process. They would get a letter saying, “I didn’t mean THOSE kind. I’m a South Carolina fan.” Or what about a police officer radioing in the tag?

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 09/09/13 - 05:07 am
3
0
Still valid

We only need look at some Vanity Tags to agree some reasonable standard must be set and adhered to.

There is always that element trying to push the moral and civil envelope.

GiantsAllDay
10463
Points
GiantsAllDay 09/09/13 - 05:16 am
2
3
Just My Opinion, the next

Just My Opinion, the next time you see that truck with the hanging 'nads, please let me know. I think my ex wife put them there. South Carolina does give "testicle tickets". Does anyone if the hanging "coin purse" is illegal in Georgia?
http://orangeleader.com/breakingnews/x1710448876/Another-testicle-ticket...

CobaltGeorge
175257
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/09/13 - 05:20 am
1
1
seenitB4
97012
Points
seenitB4 09/09/13 - 07:25 am
3
1
getting a vanity plate 5EEN1TB4

Yeh Rebel..I'm getting one that says "Kickyobutt" in good ole south Augusta....yall are FUNNIE this am..:)

Little Lamb
48881
Points
Little Lamb 09/09/13 - 08:32 am
3
0
Simple Solution

From the story:

Personalized plates provide a tiny source of revenue – last year Georgia made only $153,000 from vanity tags, which cost drivers an extra $35 a year. But they are a headache for local regulators, who must strike a balance between protecting free speech and shielding drivers’ eyes from naughty puns.

If the state would merely do away with the entire program, they would give up $153,000 in revenue, but they would also not have to spend money on salaries to police which plates are banned. They would not have to spend money on lawsuits such as the one by the hairdresser. They would not have to waste state employee time talking to reporters about the program. It's a win-win for everyone to get rid of this unnecessary program.

bdouglas
5775
Points
bdouglas 09/09/13 - 09:23 am
3
0
Can you get plates that

Can you get plates that support Augusta-Richmond County gov't? I know you can get schools, orgs, etc. Maybe I'll get one and have them put CNTYMAN on it?

historylover
17967
Points
historylover 09/09/13 - 09:50 am
5
0
Little Lamb

This day needs to go down in history, since for once I totally agree with you. Whatever happened to the good old days when everyone had the same tag? It cost less, you could identify state's tags while travelling (which by the way made car rides kind of fun) and you didn't have to worry about people's personal lives while riding behind them. I say ban all of the "specialized" tags. If you love your college team then pick another way to advertise your loyalty. Bumper stickers and flags seemed to work fine for many years. If you love God, then act like He would want you to and quit advertising it on your car.

Little Lamb
48881
Points
Little Lamb 09/09/13 - 10:06 am
3
0
History Lover

Thumbs Up! I agree. Make all Georgia license plates a uniform design and all numbers assigned by Driver Services. We don't need the Revenue Department regulating license tags.

Dixieman
17262
Points
Dixieman 09/09/13 - 11:44 am
2
0
Best Southern license plate I ever saw...

...was on I-20 halfway between Augusta and Columbia at dawn one day a couple of years ago on a North Carolina car which read MJESUSE. Took me a while, but I finally figured out it meant "Jesus inside me" which I thought was a nice sentiment.
Some of those listed in the pull-down menus inserted in this article are toe-curlingly nauseating and make me not want to be on the same road as the people who thought them up!

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