MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Christian Examiner) – Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced Wednesday no additional fee would be imposed against drivers who want their license plate to say "God Bless America."
"Approximately 1.1 million Alabamians have chosen to proudly display their patriotism with the God Bless America license plate," Bentley said in a press release about his license plate fee decision. "At a time when our country is facing so many unprecedented issues, these tags are a reminder of the blessings God has bestowed on our state and nation."
Personalized license plate designs in the state, which include those to support autism awareness, fighting cancer, wildlife and the arts, ordinary cost an additional $50.
The state has never charged extra for the "God Bless America" plates, but certain legislation was going to change that in 2016.
"After some concerns were raised that the God Bless America tag would cost 50 dollars in January," Bentley said, "we reexamined the legislation that passed in the 2015 Regular Session and found it was not clear on whether the additional fees would apply to this tag. Based on those findings, I have ordered that no fee will be charged by the Department of Revenue for the God Bless America tag."
The plate says "God Bless America" in bold blue text against a white background; the top half of the plate depicts a waving American flag.
The legislation was to have raised the issuance fee for distinctive license plates but did not specify whether the "God Bless America" plate was to be included in this category, the governor's office reported, so the governor specifically excluded it.
"Alabamians who want this license plate will be able to choose it at no additional cost as it has previously been offered," the governor concluded.
REVENUE LOSS, MONEY PROBLEMS
Comments on the governor's decision on AL.com point out the waived issuance fee could cost the state $55 million in revenue when the state's needs to generate more income.
The governor recently closed down 31 rural driver's license offices due to "money problems," ABC 3340 reports.
"Due to legislative budget cuts, in September 2015, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) reallocated driver license examination personnel back to the district drivers license offices on a full time basis," the governor said. Driver tests were given in these offices about once a week.
The Department of Transportation announced a federal investigation into the closures to ascertain whether Alabama violated civil rights laws. Meanwhile, the state has reopened the offices for one day per month.
Gov. Bentley denied the allegations and accused the Department of Transportation of "politicizing" the issue. "Despite what the Obama Administration claims, there were no driver license offices closed in Alabama," he said. "This USDOT investigation is nothing more than a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama and exploit our state in the name of a political agenda."
The governor ordered the Department of Revenue to instruct local tag issuing offices not to collect any additional fee for the "God Bless America" plates and said his office would work with the legislature to "further clarify" the legislation.