HELENA — The Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice said on Thursday that it will be granting an extension to the 85 specialty license plate designs that were recently revoked.
Among the organizations affected: Great Falls High School; Havre Wrestling Club; Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians; Benefis Mercy Flight; and Lewis & Clark Humane Society. Click here to see the complete list.
MVD administrator Sarah Garcia confirmed the extension on Thursday, and said her office understands and acknowledges the letter that initially went out to the nonprofits could have been clearer.
Garcia said the department is still working on the details of what the grace period will look like, but hopes to have a letter sent to the affected nonprofits in the next couple weeks.
State Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, sponsored the legislation that changed the specialty license plates rule, and told MTN News this is a great move in the right direction. Cohenour said she first heard about the revocations on Monday and immediately contacted MVD.
“Folks are very upset. That wasn’t the intention of the legislation,” said Cohenour. “The intention of the legislation was to make this process of specialty plates work better for the public, for the department, for law enforcement...not knowing the implementation was going to go this poorly.”
Cohenour’s inbox soon began to flood with messages from concerned Montanans and organizations. She also heard a bipartisan group of legislators were reaching out to the department after hearing complaints from their constituents. “This was the citizens and legislators working together to make a change,” said Cohenour.
Several nonprofits MTN spoke with said there was no way for them to check on the number of plates they were at leading up to the deadline. “The letter in September had numbers for people, but in an ongoing basis how would you know if you made the number or not?” said Cohenour.
It costs an organization around $4,000 to start a specialty plate. They then need to reach 400 sets with a current registration after three years to remain in the program. Each specialty plate is then reviewed yearly.
Cohenour said there is still no guarantee the organizations currently under the 400 registered plate sets minimum will get enough by the end of the extension, but at least those organizations now have a fighting chance.
“I think it would be reasonable if they have not been enforcing this for a long period of time to give at least a year, or perhaps to the certification time frame,” said Cohenour. “I think those are a couple or reasonable that the department could really make this better for these folks.”
Cohenour also encourages people that support one of the affected organizations to consider getting one of their specialty plates to help them make the 400 minimum.