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Georgia lawmakers seek license plate parity

POSTED: February 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — What’s good for Gator fans in Georgia should be good for Bulldogs boosters in Florida.

That’s the battle cry from Republican lawmakers at the Georgia Capitol, irate that the state is issuing vanity plates to Georgia’s longtime gridiron nemesis — the University of Florida.

They say that Georgia should issue special prestige alumni plates only for states that will do the same for graduates of Georgia schools.

Georgia currently issues plates for Clemson University in South Carolina, Auburn University in Alabama and, as of this month, the University of Florida, Department of Revenue spokesman Charles Willey said. None of those states return the favor.

State Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, and House Majority Whip Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said Monday they are introducing legislation that would require reciprocity.

That could halt the issuance of the new Florida Gator tags. Those Georgians who already have their plates could see their days numbered.

"I don’t know that we could yank an existing tag, but we don’t have to renew it," Johnson said. "I think that would be what would happen."

To get approval for a vanity tag in Georgia, you must have your application approved and line up 1,000 people to plunk down $25 apiece before the plates get printed.

The Atlanta Gator Club, the local alumni group for the University of Florida, lined up the needed number of drivers in no time flat and county drivers services offices began issuing the tags this month.

But in Florida, the bar would be prohibitively high for a University of Georgia or Georgia Tech grad looking to slap their own school’s symbol on a Sunshine State plate.

Florida Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Ann Nucatola confirmed that the state requires that any vanity plate applicant pay $60,000 and conduct a survey verifying interest. The tag must be created by an act of the Florida Legislature and must continue to sell a 1,000 plates a year to stay in existence.

Alabama has a state law specifically banning plates labeled with out-of-state colleges.

There was no immediate comment from officials in South Carolina about their policy.

Tennessee has a law similar to Georgia’s, and plates are available for most Southeastern Conference schools, including the Volunteers’ biggest rivals — the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide.

It looks like the rivalry on the football field is spilling over to the statehouse.

Georgia and Florida claim one of the greatest grudge matches in college football — dubbed "The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" — but it has been one-sided in Florida’s favor until recently.

Georgia went through a 1-13 stretch against Florida through 2003. Since then, the Bulldogs and Gators have racked up two wins apiece in the rivalry — including a 42-30 Georgia victory last year, a game which featured an on-field celebration by the entire Bulldog bench after the team scored its first touchdown.



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