Ohio may go to one license plate

One plate or two.

That is a question the Ohio House of Representatives will be voting on once the legislative body returns to session sometime later this year.

A bill stipulating that Ohio residents need display only one, rear-facing license plate on their vehicles, as opposed to the current two-plate requirement, will be up for a vote.

Rep. Terry Johnson, a Republican from Scioto County who is supporting the bill, claims the state could save more than $1 million per year because of the change.

Law enforcement officials, both locally and across the state, are vocalizing their opposition to the bill.

“We like the two license plates in vehicles because it makes it easier for us to identify people when you can read either the front or back plate it makes things more convenient, not only for us but also for witnesses,” said John McFarland, Martins Ferry Police Chief.

This is especially true in border counties.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania both utilize one license plate. So when an officer or witness needs to quickly read a plate, noticing a front license plated quickly narrows down where the vehicle is from.

Ohio State Rep. Jack Cera still hasn’t made up his mind on which side of this debate he’ll cast his vote. But he’s already heard from both officers and other groups who’ve expressed their concerns about the legislation.

“Law enforcement wants to keep the two plates and I’m always concerned then the police departments believe (a bill) is going to be a problem,” Cera said. “Especially with some of the crimes issues we’re having if it’s not going to help them, I am concerned with that.”

Cera noted he’s also heard from regular citizens who own antique and classic vehicles stating they believe they should be exempt from the law.

The main positive being listed as a direct result of this legislation is savings.

Those savings, however, will be felt most on the state’s end, not the end of the individual Ohio driver.

“The dollar amount, in terms of savings, isn’t what people think it is,” Cera said. “It’s minimal savings and the average individual really isn’t going to be saving anything.

“When you weight that against the law enforcement issues anything that lessens law enforcements ability to capture people, I’ll have to come down on the side of law enforcement.”

Cera admitted he’s leaning toward a no vote, but is open to hearing from all his constituents and their opinions on the matter. He noted that cost savings for the individual citizen is usually a big factor that plays a role in his decision making. But Cera believes in this case, it isn’t really there.

“If there was a major cost savings, I’d be more willing to go (down) to one plate, but again, it’s not going to save the individual money,” Cera said.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com