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Lawmaker wants to strengthen personalized license plate guidelines

SALT LAKE CITY — A lawmaker hopes to tighten up the rules on what can be requested for a personalized license plate.

Current Utah law says personalized plate requests can be denied if they carry connotations that are offensive to “good taste and decency or that would be misleading.”

The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles website specifies this as words or numbers that reference drugs; are sexual, vulgar, or derogatory in nature; suggest ideas dangerous to public welfare; or disrespect “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation.”

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored SB97, which was introduced Tuesday and would add a provision saying the division can’t issue plates of any combination that may “disparage a person or group” based upon race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship status, or physical or mental disability.

The legislation comes less than a month after lawmakers from the Administrative Rules Review Committee met with representatives from the Utah State Tax Commission and the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles to discuss a plate reading DEPORTM.

As written, the bill would also allow for plates referencing an official state symbol such as the Utah firearm — a point that was brought up during the January rules committee meeting by Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, in which he questioned whether the decision-making body took state decisions into account when choosing to approve or deny a plate request.