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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Hampshire DMV resumes issuing vanity license plates with new rules

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles has adopted temporary rules to govern messages on vanity license plates as it works to address a backlog of more than 2,000 applications.

An interim rule that became effective Monday prohibits profane or obscene words, as well as messages referencing violence, illegal activities, drugs, gangs or “intimate body parts.” The rule also prohibits hate speech based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. ...

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CONCORD – The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles has adopted temporary rules to govern messages on vanity license plates as it works to address a backlog of more than 2,000 applications.

An interim rule that became effective Monday prohibits profane or obscene words, as well as messages referencing violence, illegal activities, drugs, gangs or “intimate body parts.” The rule also prohibits hate speech based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

The DMV earlier this year placed a temporary stop on all vanity license plate requests while it reviewed its administrative rules governing the plates.

The review was prompted in May after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the DMV’s regulations were unconstitutionally vague, giving too much discretion to DMV staffers to decide whether vanity plate requests should be approved or denied.

Previously, those regulations prohibited vanity plates that “a reasonable person would find offensive to good taste.” The justices ruled that state law does not provide a definition for “offensive to good taste,” making the language subjective.

Michael Todd, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, said the interim rule is more specific and will allow the DMV to work through hundreds of backlogged vanity plate applications. The agency hopes to address outstanding applications within 60 days.

“Normally, we receive between 300 and 400 vanity plate applications per month. We’ve seen a small increase in the number of applications recently and are pleased to have the revised process so we can send out approvals,” state Division of Motor Vehicles Director Richard Bailey said in an announcement.

The DMV is expected to work under the interim rules for up to six months while it finalizes permanent guidelines. Todd said the process will include a public hearing on any new regulations, which must be approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.

Of the 1.5 million vehicles registered in New Hampshire, some 162,000 have vanity plates, according to information provided by the Department of Safety. The plates, which cost $40 per year, generate approximately $6.6 million in annual revenue.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).