A bill working its way through the Wisconsin legislature would make the Badger State the latest to offer specialty pro-life license plates.
The measure passed the state Assembly on Friday and heads to the state Senate where its fate “is uncertain,” according to the Milwuakee Journal-Sentinel. But Wisconsin’s late to the party. More than half of the states already offer such specialty plates, thanks in large part to the efforts of Choose Life America Inc., a group formed nearly 20 years ago.
“We’ve written bills, we’ve gone and actually trained different volunteers,” says Russ Amerling, who has volunteered with the group since its founding and is its president and national publicity coordinator.
Pro-life plates are available “to go on the road” in 29 states and Washington, D.C., he says. They are for sale in three more — Maine, Utah and Nebraska — but production won’t begin until a minimum demand is met.
Choose Life America is often credited in news reports and legal articles for sparking the movement. The idea for a pro-life plate came to Marion County Commissioner Randy Harris in Florida, who created organization in 1996 to carry out the fight in his state. A bill eventually made its way through the legislature but was ultimately vetoed — a development the group credits with popularizing and nationalizing its fight. After another bill was shepherded through the legislature and approved by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, the plates became reality in August 2000.
Each state handles the cost of the plates differently, but through the end of last year, “choose life” plates had raised as much as $17 million for pro-life causes and advocacy over their years in existence, according to the group. Fees for “choose life” plates in Florida netted more than $600,000 in fees in the fiscal year that ended in June, according to a state report.
In Wisconsin, two fees would be charged for the plates — a $15 issuance or re-issuance fee and an annual $25 fee that would go to Choose Life Wisconsin after production costs are covered.
A handful of states have approved pro-choice plates or decals, too, though statistics and documented usage of them are hard to find. Hawaii, Montana, Pennsylvania and Virginia have each reportedly offered pro-choice plates.