Connecticut state law establishes special license plates commemorating people, organizations, and causes in a variety of different categories. These plates bear distinct designs or logos and typically carry additional fees, and can be seen on vehicles throughout the state.
Most of the special license plates established in statute are dedicated to certain causes and carry a fee that applies in addition to the standard fees for registering vehicles, according to a review of the current status of the program prepared earlier this year by the state legislature’s Office of Legislative Research. Many are familiar, some less so. The list may be more extensive than is commonly known.
The initial fee for the commemorative plate is, in most cases, $50, $55 or $60, with renewal, in most instances, between $5 and $15. The Olympic Spirit plate is initially $75; some renewals, including Amistad, Support Our Troops, and Support for Nursing Profession, do not incur an additional charge.
In most cases, the law directs these additional fees to separate, nonlapsing General Fund accounts to be used for specified purposes related to the cause displayed on the license plate.
In addition to these plates there are a number of special license plates established in statute for which the Department of Motor Vehicles may establish additional fees to cover the costs of producing and issuing the plates. These include antique vehicle license plates, volunteer firefighter license plates, veterans license plates, amateur radio license plates, and license plates memorializing police officers killed in the line of duty.
The commemorative plates authorized under state law include:
Long Island Sound - Fee revenue must be deposited in Long Island Sound Account, a separate, nonlapsing General Fund Account, and be used by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for various purposes relating to Sound preservation and rehabilitation, including grants to other organizations conducting research and providing public education. Voluntary renewal donations must be deposited in the habitat restoration subaccount and used to match federal habitat restoration funds and support other habitat restoration projects.
Keep Kids Safe - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Keep Kids Safe Account in the General Fund and be used by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) for community programs that protect children’s safety (e.g., helmet and child occupant safety campaigns and child drowning and burn prevention programs) and grants to other organizations conducting related research and outreach.
Animal Population Control - Fee revenue must be deposited in the Animal Population Control Account and used by the Department of Agriculture for the Animal Population Control Program, which, among other things, provides spaying, neutering, and vaccination services to eligible pet owners and supports the sterilization of feral cats. Funds in this account must be carried forward between fiscal years.
Greenways - DMV regulations direct fee revenue to the Conservation Fund, but this fund was eliminated in 2009. According to DMV, in practice, this fee is deposited into the Conservation Account in the General Fund.
Amistad - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Amistad Commemorative Account in the General Fund and used by OPM for community programs that inform the public of the 1839 uprising against the crew of the Spanish slave ship, The Amistad, and the related U.S. Supreme Court case and for grants to organizations for related research and public education.
Olympic Spirit - Fee revenue must be deposited into the separate, nonlapsing Olympic Spirit Commemorative Account in the General Fund and distributed by OPM to the U.S. Olympic Committee to be used for athlete training and support.
United We Stand - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing United We Stand Commemorative Account in the General Fund and used by OPM to (1) reimburse boards of trustees for tuition waivers to certain military personnel, veterans, and dependent children of first responders killed in the line of duty, terrorist victims, and prisoners of war and (2) support civil preparedness training and purchase emergency personnel supplies.
Childhood Cancer Awareness - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Childhood Cancer Awareness Account and used by OPM to provide funding to the pediatric oncology units at Connecticut Children’s and Yale-New Haven Children’ Hospital.
Wildlife Conservation - When the plates were established in 2003, this fee was directed to the Wildlife Conservation Account. In 2009, the account was eliminated and the requirement to direct the fee to the account was repealed. According to DMV, in practice, fee revenue is deposited into the Conservation Account in the General Fund. The law does not specify a purpose for the fee revenue, but states that the plate’s purpose is to enhance public awareness of state efforts to conserve wildlife species and their habitats in Connecticut.
Support Our Troops! - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Support Our Troops Commemorative Account in the General Fund and distributed to Connecticut Support Our Troops, Inc. for programs to assist troops, their families, and veterans.
Support for Nursing Profession - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Nursing Commemorative Account in the General Fund and distributed by OPM to the Connecticut Nurses Foundation for scholarships for nursing education and training.
Share the Road - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Share the Road Account in the General Fund and used by DOT to enhance public awareness of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and drivers and promote bicycle safety.
Men’s Health - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Men’s Health Account in the General Fund and be used by the Department of Public Health for public awareness of prostate cancer treatment efforts and to support research.
Hartford Whalers - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Hartford Whalers Commemorative Account in the General Fund and distributed by OPM to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Save Our Lakes - Fee revenue must be deposited in the separate, nonlapsing Connecticut Lakes, Rivers and Ponds Preservation Account in the General Fund and used by DEEP for, among other things, (1) lakes, rivers, and ponds restoration and rehabilitation; (2) eradication of aquatic invasive species; and (3) research and public education on management of lakes, ponds, and rivers
The law also establishes an administrative process through which DMV may produce special license plates for qualifying nonprofit organizations and charge a fee that, at a minimum, covers the cost of producing and issuing the plates. Fees charged are retained by DMV. There are also special license plates that do not carry an additional fee, including license plates for family of residents killed in action and prisoner of war and Congressional Medal of Honor license plates.
In addition, Connecticut law authorizes the DMV to produce plates, which bear a college’s logo, if the college requests them and demonstrates a demand for at least 400 plates, according to OLR. Fee revenue is deposited into a separate, nonlapsing General Fund account established for each institution and distributed quarterly to them to be used for scholarships and alumni outreach.
Officials note that fees for the Save Our Lakes license plates have not yet been established, and the Share the Road commemorative plate has not been established.