STATE NEWS Indiana BMV to restart personal plate program

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is reinstating its personalized license plate program after a three-year hiatus brought on by a lawsuit.

BMV Commissioner Kent Abernathy said the program will resume Friday, both online and at local branches. Abernathy said there are no changes in the program from the time it was suspended due to a lawsuit that made its way to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The lawsuit claimed the BMV denying certain applications but approving others was a violation of freedom of speech.

The court ruled in favor of the BMV, saying the agency had the right to deny some personalized applications if they were deemed offensive or derogatory. That ruling came in 2015, but Abernathy said the BMV wanted to make sure the program was ready to go after a lengthy break. He said he expects to see a large number of people applying for new plates once the system is back online.

“I like to say you can have it good or you can have it quick,” Abernathy said. “We wanted to make sure we were doing this the right way.”

On Friday, anyone renewing a license plate or registering a new car can go online or visit a branch to apply for a personalized plate. Abernathy said anyone who has an up-to-date plate and wants to change to a personalized one will have to do so at a store branch.

The reinstatement of the program is a continuation of major changes going on around the BMV since Gov. Mike Pence cleaned house last year. After a slew of problems where Hoosiers were over-charged or under charged on fees, Abernathy took over to change the BMV’s structure. Lawmakers recently passed a bill drastically reworking the agency’s fee structure. Abernathy said, thanks to the new fee structure, Hoosiers will have a better idea of what they are paying for and why when it comes to license fees.

Although the personalized plate program starts on Friday, most of the changes taken care of in the BMV overhaul bill won’t go into effect until the start of 2017.

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