Legislature 2008: Lawmakers chomping to bite Gators over tags

Seriously? We have an elected official worrying about car tags in Florida? Oh wait… he’s running for Congress this summer….. so waste time and money that should be going to benefit his district to benefit his own personal goals— that makes total sense.

Legislature 2008: Lawmakers chomping to bite Gators over tags

By Jim Galloway
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/12/08

Apparently, only one thing can unite fractious Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol.

And it’s not Hillary Clinton.

It’s the University of Florida.

On Monday, GOP lawmakers announced a rare, united House-Senate effort to force the state of Florida to lower its barriers to specialty car tags that honor University of Georgia alumni. Otherwise, the Georgia legislators said, they will discontinue the Gator-oriented tags just won from the state Department of Revenue by an Atlanta group of University of Florida grads.

Pitching the bill is House Minority Whip Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), who just happens to be running for Congress this summer and will require support from Athens, where he just happened to earn undergraduate and law degrees. And despite the Georgia-Florida jokes that clog offices and sports bars throughout the state, the lawmaker says he is dead serious.

“Just like we have reciprocity for bar exams, just as we have reciprocity on tuition and all kinds of licensing and whatnot, it would make sense to have reciprocity in this area, too,” Fleming said.

Creating a new specialty car tag in Georgia requires a petition signed by 1,000 people who declare themselves willing to pony up the extra $25 for the privilege. The state revenue commissioner must approve the design.

Members of the Atlanta Gator Club just completed the process.

But in Florida, those who want a new specialty tag must pay the state government a $60,000 processing fee. An independent firm must conduct a random survey of the Florida population to determine that at least 30,000 residents intend to purchase the plates. At least 1,000 specialty tags must be sold every year. And the design must be approved by the Legislature, according to the Florida state department of motor vehicles Web site.

Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) said those requirements amount to a ban when it comes to UGA alumni in Florida. “If this bill passes and you can’t get a University of Georgia alumni tag in Florida, then they would not be able to renew [their] tag,” Johnson said.

Bill Piercy, an Atlanta business lawyer and a ’94 graduate of the University of Florida, didn’t like what he heard.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed. We’re willing to pay the fee just like the wildlife people,” Piercy said.

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