By Brian Hill
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The Eastern Shore of Virginia soon could get money to rev up its tourism promotion efforts whenever motorists buy or renew a specialty license plate depicting that scenic region off Virginia’s mainland.
The Senate has passed a bill to channel proceeds from the specialty plates’ sales into a fund to promote tourism on the Eastern Shore.
The Senate voted 33-2 for Senate Bill 587, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk. He represents Senate District 6, which includes the two Eastern Shore counties – Accomack and Northampton.
Northam’s bill now goes to the House for consideration. What will happen there is uncertain: A House subcommittee last week tabled an identical measure, House Bill 762, proposed by Delegate Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac.
Virginia already has a specialty license plate honoring the Eastern Shore. It costs $10 a year, in addition to the standard registration fee.
The legislation submitted by Northam and Lewis would convert the Eastern Shore auto tag into a revenue-sharing license plate. Under the proposal, the plate would cost $25 annually; after 1,000 have been sold, $15 from each plate would go to the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism.
A representative of the chamber refused to comment on the legislation.
Virginia has more than 200 specialty license plates. Most of them are revenue-sharing plates, generating money for colleges and universities, local governments, nonprofit groups and various causes.
“The standard passenger vehicle fee is $40.75,” said Pam Goheen, the assistant commissioner for communications for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “From the additional $25 fee, $15 is transferred to some organization or charity – in this case the Eastern Shore Tourism Fund.”
Last year, DMV disbursed more than $3.1 million from the sale of revenue-sharing plates to beneficiary organizations.
The Eastern Shore plate already is pretty popular: More than 4,700 vehicles have it. (Accomack and Northampton counties account for nearly 30,000 registered passenger vehicles combined.)
If Northam’s bill passes and the current holders of Eastern Shore plates all renew their registrations, the extra fee would generate more than $55,000 for the Eastern Shore Tourism Fund the first year alone.