Indianapolis, Indiana Just last month, Indiana Youth Group ( IYG ) proudly announced the release of the nation's first specialty license plate to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning ( LGBTQ ) youth. Now the organization is fighting to keep the plate.
In the past two weeks, there have been three failed attempts by Rep. Thompson ( R-District 28 ) to amend bills aimed at taking away IYG's specialty plate. SB327 was amended yesterday by the Roads and Transportation committee with the provision that all specialty license plates approved in 2011 would be eliminated. In total, ten ( 10 ) non-profit organizations ( listed below ) were approved last year and will lose their plates under SB327. IYG is strongly urging Indiana voters to support IYG and all of the other non-profits affected by the bill by contacting their representative and the speaker of the house.
"We've been tracking these amendments for the last 2 weeks but have been trying to stay under the wire, thinking that the powers-that-be at the state house will do the right thing," says Mary Byrne, Executive Director of IYG.
The loss of these plates will be devastating to IYG, as well as all of the non-profits targeted with elimination in this bill. Losing this plate means that fewer young people struggling with identity issues will know about IYG and that IYG will lose the ability to serve more of these isolated youth. IYG will lose funding for a full-time youth worker.
IYG has served tens of thousands of youth since its inception in 1987. Last year alone IYG provided services, education, and programming to over 1,300 at-risk LGBTQ youth and their allies. IYG is the only agency with its focus on breaking the cycle of isolation that causes depression and sometimes death by suicide for LGBTQ youth.
IYG, a United Way agency, empowers youth by promoting self-acceptance, healthy life choices, self-esteem and leadership opportunities through programming and support services.
IYG and the other nine ( 9 ) non-profit organizations that were approved for specialty plates in 2011 met all of the criteria and extensive requirements set by previous legislation, submitted all information requested, and signed a five-year contract with the state. The proposed amendment would retroactively negate the over 200-plus hours of work that all these organizations spent to apply last year. Additionally, Indiana Youth Group, along with most of the other organizations, have already finalized and approved their 2012 budgets of which the proceeds from the specialty plate sales are a major line item, putting many in a last-minute financial crisis.
"It is unfair that all of these reputable organizations have, in good faith, met all of the requirements and deadlines set by the state. We have a 5-year contract signed by members of this administration. What does it mean to have a contract with the state if they can arbitrarily void a contract? What does having a contract with the state of Indiana mean?" says Byrne.
After three applications and one lawsuit, IYG was finally approved for its own specialty license plate starting in 2012. IYG first applied to the Indiana BMV for a specialty plate in 2008 and was again denied in 2009. In 2010,
with the help of the ACLU of Indiana, IYG filed a lawsuit asking the court to require the BMV to state all of its requirements and to make the approval/rejection process transparent. This suit was settled out of court and the court made no mandates to the BMV for these changes.
Byrne adds, "the support from the community has been overwhelming and energizing. We are struggling with fairness here and it is resonating with a wide spectrum of people."
Organizations that will lose their specialty plates through the passage of SB0327:
New Plates approved in 2011 that would be eliminated:
1. Indiana Assoc. of Chiefs of Police
2. IU Health
3. Indiana Youth Group
4. Tony Stewart Foundation
5. Indiana Soccer
6. Motor Truck Association
7. Ducks Unlimited
8. Marine Foundation
9. Indianapolis Zoological Society
10. Patriot Guard
Plates with Sales of Fewer than 1,000 that would be eliminated ( even though ALL previous criteria have had
a 500 plate benchmark ) :
1. Blood Center
3. Indiana Youth Institute
5. Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault
6. American Diabetes Association
7. Operating Engineers
8. Habitat for Humanity
10. Lions Club
11. Indiana Greenways
12. Special Olympics
Plates that could be in jeopardy of being eliminated if numbers drop below 1,000:
1,003 Donate Life
1,029 Wild Turkey
1,036 Peyton Manning's Children's Hospital
1,048 Indiana Rolling Thunder POW-MIA
1,061 Autism Awareness
1,296 Indiana Shrine Assoc.
1,333 American Legion