Missouri has two ways you can get a specialty license plate through the Department of Revenue. The first is to have a legislator file a bill that gets approved by a majority vote of the entire Legislature. Some 70 specialty license plates have been created through this process, many of them very obscure, including those for the Knights of Columbus, the Grand Chapter of the Missouri Order of the Eastern Star, the Grand Lodge Ancient Arabic Order or Nobles of the Mystic Shrine and such.
The second process is the one Choose Life used and that is by making an application with the Department of Revenue. The application must 1) generally describe the specialty license plate; 2) have a sponsor of at least one current member of the Missouri Legislature; 3) list at least 200 people who intend to buy the plate; 4) include a $5,000 application fee.
The application then goes to the Joint Committee for Transportation Oversight for required unanimous approval. The Joint Committee is composed of seven senators, seven representatives and three ex-officio members (the state auditor, the director of the oversight division of the committee of legislative research and the commissioner of the office of administration).
That’s where the Choose Life application stopped being a routine matter and turned into a denial of First Amendment rights. Two senators, Joan Bray and Rita Heard Days, both radical, pro-abortion politicians, decided to flex their muscle and squash free speech. They used a new Missouri law that allowed two senators to object and stopped the application dead in its tracks.
Interestingly, Senator Bray had sponsored a bill in 2005 to allow a pro-choice license plate, so she wasn’t objecting that political speech or abortion speech was being inserted into the specialty license program. She was clearly objecting that pro-life speech was being allowed. In her kind of liberal thinking, only her side of the argument should be represented.
The Joint Committee held its hearing on February 21, 2006 to review the applications for specialty license plates. Four applications were approved: Choose Life, Ethan and Friends for Autism, Missouri Cattlemen Foundation, Missouri Caves and Karst Conservatory, Missouri Support our Troops; one was denied.
Hence a one-and-a-half year law suit filed by Choose Life of Missouri Inc which concluded last week when another well known Missouri liberal, Scott O. Wright, Senior Judge for the US District Court of Western Missouri, wrote:
ORDERED that Missouri Statute 21.795(6) is hereby deemed unconstitutional and an injunction shall be entered requiring the defendant to issue the Choose Life specialty license plate.
Judge Wright's decision siding with pro-lifers can only mean this was one of the worst abuses of power Missouri has ever endured. Thankfully, the wrong has been righted.
I, for one, would love to see Missouri’s specialty license plate program abolished. With some 200 to choose from, can anyone say “bumper sticker”? But as long as the state allows one non-profit group to utilize this program, it must allow all. So why not order your specialty license plate and support the pro-life cause?
By the way, Bray and Days often tag team to destroy our heritage. This session, they are hopeful to outlaw Missouri’s death penalty and have jointly filed Senate Bill No. 835.