Motorcyclists' specialty plate bill passed, despite legislative logjam
Local Rep. Cretul's bill was unanimously approved by House.


Published May 06. 2003 8:30AM

BY BILL THOMPSON
STAFF WRITER


OCALA - They didn't pass a budget, fix workers' compensation or medical malpractice insurance, or reduce classroom sizes. But state lawmakers did take care of one piece of business on Friday before exiting Tallahassee to prepare for next week's special session.

The House of Representatives voted 119-0 in support of state Rep. Larry Cretul's bill creating Florida's first-ever specialty license plate for motorcycles. The measure, which unanimously passed the Senate in April, now goes to Gov. Jeb Bush's desk.

The law creating the tag takes effect July 1, if Bush signs it. But it remains unclear when the tag would be available to the public.

Under the Ocala Republican's bill, motorcyclists wanting the tag - it measures 4 inches by 7 inches and features red, white and blue diagonal stripes - would pay a $15 annual surcharge on top of other registration costs.

Proceeds from the surcharge will be distributed to The Able Trust, a state-recognized custodial agency for such funds. The trust will take 10 percent to administer the fund and split the rest equally among four charities: Prevent Blindness Florida; the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program Trust Fund; the Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living; and the Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation.

"This plate's going to raise a lot of money," Cretul predicted in an interview on Monday.

"Bikers for the most part are patriotic and caring people, as long as they know the money is going for a good cause."

Nearly 304,000 motorcycles are registered in Florida, including about 4,000 in Marion County.

Cretul, who owns a black 2002 Harley-Davidson Road King, said there's a debate among lawmakers about who gets the first issued plate. It likely won't be him, he said, but he won't be far behind.

Florida now has 54 specialty tags available for purchase, with several others pending Bush's approval from this year's session.

Besides Cretul's motorcycle plate, they include car plates that: honor each branch of the U.S. military and U.S. paratroopers; honoring hospice care; advocate an end to heart disease and child abuse; call for protection of Florida's reefs; and promote the state's fishing industry. One final one updates the Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative plate.

The Challenger plate, created by lawmakers in 1986 to become the state's first specialty tag, will now also bear the name of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated Feb. 1 during a landing.

Bill Thompson covers county government and can be reached at 867-4117, or at bill.thompson@starbanner.com.

Cretul



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