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Some Kentucky Organizations Expect Revenue Growth From New License Plate Law

Dixie Highway is one of Louisville Metro’s busiest, widest and most dangerous transportation corridors. Its fatality rate is more than three times the rate of similar highways.
Dixie Highway is one of Louisville Metro’s busiest, widest and most dangerous transportation corridors. Its fatality rate is more than three times the rate of similar highways.

A new law that goes into effect next week will require Kentucky drivers to donate $10 when buying and renewing some special license plates. That same law will also end production of the special plates for organizations that do not register enough users.

Kentucky defines a special license plate as one which identifies the driver as, “a member of a group or organization, or a supporter of the work, goals, or mission of a group or organization.” There are dozens of special license plates, and the majority of them (including military, university and nature plates) already include a mandatory donation.  

The change, mandated by House Bill 341, affects 29 special license plates. Starting Monday, anyone buying plates that support causes such as Alzheimer’s Awareness, Friends of Coal or the National Wild Turkey Foundation will be required to make a $10 donation to the organization. 

The change could bring more revenue to these groups. Kentucky Library Association Executive Director Tom Underwood said in an email that optional license plate donations earned the organization almost $18,000 last year, which was spent to fund scholarships for students studying to be librarians. 

Louisville Zoo Assistant Director of Operations Stephanie Moore said the zoo also earned around $18,000 from optional license plate donations last year, and she expects the new requirement will bring them more money. Moore said those donations support the organization’s free “School at the Zoo” program, which could use any additional funds to expand.

“It’s a great way for kids who may not have access to the zoo on a regular basis to come to the zoo and be able to experience an educational program in a whole different way,” Moore said. “Our zoo supporters are typically very loyal … I don’t anticipate that it could be a decrease [in donations] but I guess we’ll see.”

In addition to the donation, the new law also requires groups with special license plates to register at least 500 of them every year for the state to continue production of the plate. 

Naitore Djigbenou, executive director for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Public Affairs, said production costs likely factored into creating a minimum for registrations.

“Historically, making license plates has been something that sometimes comes at the expense of the state,” Djigbenou said. “We’re hopeful that people continue to maintain their license plates and now also offer financial support to these organizations that they are in favor of.”

Djigbenou said some groups do not register enough special license plates every year to meet the new requirement, but added that she does not know how many would fall short.

Djigbenou said KYTC’s Department of Vehicle Regulation will track whether organizations meet the registration requirement. The law goes into effect December 30.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.

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