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'Vt. Strong' plates come with strings - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

'Vt. Strong' plates come with strings

Montpelier, Vermont - January 9, 2012  

It's a new way to raise money for Irene clean-up. The governor loves it, but law enforcement isn't completely sold.

"I am Vermont Strong." It's a rally call heard in small towns and larger cities. When Vermont looked at its worst, neighbors pitched in to help neighbors and complete strangers -- recover from Tropical Storm Irene.

"If you purchase this plate for the front of your vehicle, proceeds will go to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund to help those who still need us," said Gov. Peter Shumlin last week. It was a state of the state speech that enticed Vermonters to help out in a new way. Governor Shumlin showed off the new Vermont Strong commemorative license plate. "So buy one and put it on the front of your rig," he said.

Not so fast. The plate can only be pre-ordered because it's not legal yet. In Vermont you must have an identifying plate on the front and back of your vehicle, otherwise you'll get a ticket. The DMV now needs legislative approval to release the special fundraising plates.

"We are being very careful to keep these plates under wraps until they are legal and then we will move them out as quickly as we can," said Vt. DMV Commissioner Rob Ide.

The Department of Corrections has the contract and inmates are already producing 500 plates a day. Commissioner Ide just hopes that's enough to keep up with the demand. 700 people have already placed their orders. "This is a retail marketers dream. It's a great slogan. It's a great cause. It's a wonderful concept. It's just got a lot of momentum," he said.

Momentum the state hopes will pump big bucks into Vermont charities. The plate costs 25 dollars -- 18 dollars of that goes directly to the Irene recovery effort and 2-dollars to the Vermont Food Bank.

Once the plates become legal the idea is to completely overlay the commemorative plate on top of the front plate, but that's causing controversy among some law enforcement agencies.
"Vermont is a two plate state. We require a front license plate for a very good reason," said Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen.

Police worry that the placement of the plates will cut down an eyewitness's ability to catch a criminals plate as they flee a scene. It also makes police plate readers harder to use.
"Either stack it or put it on the front of the vehicle. Display it proudly to show our support, but we prefer it not cover the front license plate as a matter of law," McQueen said.

Police say they support the cause and hope they can strike a compromise with lawmakers.

So if you're wondering when you can get your hands on the plates -- at this point -- it's anyone's guess. The bill still has to be passed in the house and senate and then be signed into law by the governor.

The DMV says it chose not to go with identifying fundraiser plates because a commemorative vanity plate would also appeal to out-of-staters. Once the Vermont Strong plates do become legal, drivers could only display them on the front of their vehicle until June 2014.

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