By JOHN MONK – firstname.lastname@example.org
An unofficial symbol of the Tea Party — as well as logos of South Carolina’s 200-plus public and independent high schools — would be able to be put on S.C. customized vehicle license tags under a bill likely to be passed later this month when the General Assembly goes back into session.
A Tea Party emblem — a coiled rattlesnake with the message “Don’t Tread on Me” — would give that fledgling movement of anti-government, anti-tax activists a highly visible perch on perhaps thousands of S.C. vehicles that more established political parties don’t have.
Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have their own symbols — a donkey and an elephant, respectively — on state vehicle license tags.
A large crowd waved signs and banners during a Tea Party rally at the State House in 2011.
– Gerry Melendez /email@example.com
Top-selling S.C. specialty vehicle license plates
1. In God We Trust – 433,995
2. Personalized plate – 44,390
3. USC – 10,406
4. Clemson University – 8,063
5. National Guard – 6,593
6. Antique vehicle – 6,047
7. Public education (an apple) – 6,005
8. Endangered species – 4,784
9. Vietnam veteran – 4,481
10. Disabled veteran – 3,745
Source: S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles Information as of 5/31/2012
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S.C. Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly said the idea of putting an elephant or other Republican symbol on S.C. license tags is something he will explore with the party’s executive committee, composed of party leaders from across the state. He said he had no objection to a Tea Party symbol on a state license plate.
“People use those things as things that they stand for and believe strongly in,” Connelly said.
S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian ridiculed lawmakers for “wasting taxpayers’ money” by coming up with an idea that would politicize the state’s millions of license plates.
“I hope every time citizens see one of these yellow snakes on a license plate, they think of how the Legislature wasted taxpayers’ time and money while neglecting major problems this state has,” Harpootlian said.
A state Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman said if the Legislature passes a law that allows Democratic and Republican license plates, the DMV will issue the plates. “We follow the law. If the law requires us to produce a plate, we produce the plate,” said the DMV’s Beth Parks.
Under a provision in the proposed license-plate law, any money raised by the sale of snake license plates — beyond the cost to produce the plates — would go to the State Museum in Columbia to be used for Revolutionary War exhibits.
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