Sierra Nevada license plate clears a major hurdle |

Sierra Nevada license plate clears a major hurdle

Jeff Munson

Plans to create a Sierra Nevada license plate for California cleared a major hurdle last week during a legislative committee meeting.

In a 10-1 decision, the Assembly Transportation Committee agreed to allow quasi-state agencies to create license plates such as the one proposed by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

A District Court judge ruled last year that private nonprofit organizations cannot request the DMV to issue license plates. The ruling stalled efforts by the conservancy to have its own license plate.

At the committee meeting, it was argued that because the conservancy is run through the state, it meets the criteria allowed to create a license. Established last year, the conservancy secures public money for environmental restoration, recreation and public access in the Sierra Nevada.

Last year’s case was determined after the Women’s Resources Network, a pro-life organization, sued the DMV because the Legislature denied a license plate that says “Choose Life.”

The judge determined that private nonprofit organizations could not apply for license plates, which was not the case before the decision.

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AB84 is authored by Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, and is sponsored by Nevada City-based Sierra Fund. Assemblywoman Betty Karnett, D-Los Angeles, voted against it, saying that while she supports the Sierra Conservancy, she doesn’t feel there’s a need for more license plates.

“The committee hearing received bipartisan support. It was a major step for us to have this cleared through the transportation committee,” said Elizabeth Martin, chief executive officer of Sierra Fund, a nonprofit foundation which supports environmental conservation in the Sierra Nevada region.

Leslie was pleased with Monday’s decision.

“The Sierra Nevada license plate will celebrate one of the world’s most wonderful mountain ranges, the Sierra Nevada,” he said. “It will also provide much-needed funding for the Sierra without costing taxpayers a dime.”

The conservancy is seeking about $3.5 million in seed money to get it off the ground but should recoup all the costs through the sale of license plates. Money used for the license plate sale would then go to fund the conservancy.

If the Sierra Nevada license plate is approved, the Department of Motor Vehicles would begin issuing plates after 7,500 plates are reserved.