New license plate proposals include artist Rodrigue

On the first full day of the 2014 Louisiana Legislature, a House panel Tuesday churned out bills that would authorize prestige license plates to honor the late artist George Rodrigue, master gardeners, U.S. Army Rangers, winners of the Distinguished Service Cross and other causes.

All the proposals breezed through the House Transportation Committee with little discussion.

Most will be placed on the House list of noncontroversial bills when they are reviewed by the full chamber.

The state has 215 specialty plates now with the LSU designation topping the list.

The House panel’s agenda included 18 bills dealing with prestige plates and new road names.

A state Senate committee will consider a lengthy list of its own proposed specialty plates on Wednesday, including those to recognize the Future Farmers of America, multiple sclerosis and disabled veterans.

The license plates are in lieu of the rank-and-file variety, with some of the proceeds dedicated to whatever issue is spelled out on the plate.

State Rep. Walter Leger, D-New Orleans, is sponsor of House Bill 818, which would set up the “George Rodrigue Foundation” license plate.

Rodrigue died in December. Leger said the foundation has been operating for years and aids public school students in math and other subjects, including through use of the visual arts.

In a separate tribute, the panel also approved a bill that would designate an overpass on U.S. 90 in Iberia Parish as the “George Rodrigue Memorial Overpass.” State Rep. Taylor Barras, D-New Iberia, noted that Rodrigue was a native of New Iberia and the overpass is about a quarter of a mile from his final resting place.

Barras said the overpass is also near a 300-year-old oak tree that was recently moved and replanted because of state road work.

He said the tree resembles those that often appeared in Rodrigue’s work.

The overpass proposal is House Bill 402.

Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, is sponsor of House Bill 825 that would create the “Louisiana Master Gardener” plate.

The LSU Agricultural Center offers a roughly 50-hour education and training program for volunteers, who then help train home gardeners statewide.

Winners of the Distinguished Service Cross would be eligible for specialty plates under House Bill 366 by state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell.

Pearson noted that the award is one step below the Medal of Honor, which usually sparks a ceremony at the White House.

He said later that he is unsure whether the state has enough buyers to have the plate produced.

The state requires commitments from at least 1,000 potential buyers.

Another proposal would authorize the creation of the “U.S. Army Ranger” plate.

State Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Mansfield, sponsor of the bill, said that while he was not a member of the elite unit, his brother was.

The measure is House Bill 317.

Neither proposal requires proof of military service.

The committee also approved bills that would authorize plates for Down syndrome awareness, the Louisiana Golf Association, the Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, domestic violence awareness and the Lung Cancer Alliance.

Special charges in addition to the standard fees vary depending on which plate is chosen.

However, the two military plates are supposed to carry the same charge as standard ones.