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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Of God, the devil and license plates




(The proposed "Trinity" plate, sponsored by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.)

Why worry about a budget impasse when you can spend more than a hour debating the value of new license plates? That's what members of the Florida Senate did today, spurred by concern over amendments offered by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, and Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando.Tag_small

Before it was all over, you had Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, invoking the devil to make her point: "What if someone comes next year and decides to vote on something that has the devil on it, and horns, horns on each side. I know that people are called the devil, but if the symbol of a devil is on it, I would not vote for that."

Storms' amendment was to create an "I Believe" license plate to benefit Faith in Teaching, an Orlando company that funds faith-based programs at schools. Senators wanted to know what the plate looked like, but Storms did not have an image. See ours. Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, wanted more information on the company, wondering if it exists just to get this license plate. It took two voice votes, but Storms' amendment was adopted to SB 642.

Next it was Siplin's effort to get three license plates: a Florida Biodiversity Foundation license plate, benefitting that organization, and two benefitting the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences ("Trinity" license plate and "Preserving the Past" license plate).

Siplin didn't have images of any of his license plates, either, but said the "Trinity" plate had an image of "my lord and savior Jesus Christ."  In fact, it does if you look above. At right, we have the "Preserving the Past" plate.Dinoplate

Several members had concerns about approving plates they had not seen. Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Delray Beach, wondered if it was right to have a plate with a religious symbol. Siplin addressed the debate in his close on the amendment.

"Members, these license plates were duly discussed in a full committee by our colleagues in the Florida Senate," he said. "It was universally voted upon without any dispute."

He pointed out that "FAMU has a snake on its license plate" and said, "I’m asking you to allow my constituents to share and enjoy these three diverse license plates, pure and simple."

After a not-so-simple vote (two voice votes, a board vote, a voided board vote, two quorum calls and finally one that counted), the amendment was adopted 22-13. 

Before the day was over, the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU registered opposition and across the hall in the House, proposals for the same plates were withdrawn from legislation.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:56pm]


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