A non-profit in danger of losing their specialty license plate as lawmakers wrangle over who should have control over them are balking, saying they have a contract with the state and lawmakers should not be able to void it.
It’s a five-year contract. And while the BMV said there are provisions that allow the state to walk away from those contracts, 24-Hour News 8 has learned something deleted from the contract could open the state to lawsuits.
One of the non-profits that could lose its plate is the Indiana Youth Group. Its plate has been available only since January, and it is already selling well.
“We sold 127 last month, and that was without marketing because we hadn’t really gotten everything going,” said Mary Byrne, executive director of the 25-year-old non-profit that works to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in Indiana. “I think that once certain groups caught wind that we had the plate, that’s when the amendments started in the legislature on to different bills.”
Wednesday an amendment was passed by a House committee that would stop the sale of the Indiana Youth Group plate and all 10 specialty plates issued for the first time this year, as well as any specialty plate that didn’t sell 1,000 last year. But Byrne said her group has a contract with Indiana.
“Yes, we have a five-year contract with the state, as do all of these organizations,” Byrne said.
The contract between the BMV and the specialty plate issuers is a 19-page document. The BMV said provisions make it possible to walk away from the contract if the law is changed. So 24-Hour News 8 took the contract to IU law professor Antony Page. He was surprised at what he saw.
“As far as a clear termination right, that provision has been deleted,” he said.
Sure enough, the contract clearly states that by agreement of both parties, the termination right is deleted.
Page said unless there’s something in the contract that gives the Bureau of Motor Vehicles the right to walk away, in this situation, it would be a breach of contract.
The BMV says there are three provisions in the contract that do give it the right to walk away.
But Page said that right is not clear-cut, and the non-profits could make an argument against the state if any or all went to court.
Page also said the Indiana Youth Group could make a First Amendment argument claiming discrimination. Even though the provisions of the law appear to be neutral, the circumstances around it could be used in a court to argue the law was passed simply to keep Indiana Youth Group from selling its plate.
Bryne said her group has not ruled out anything, including going to court.
The full House is set to debate the bill next week.
News Source: WISH-TV