Coal Tattoo

Friends of Coal license plate bill moving forward


The good folks at Friends of Coal didn’t seem to be having much luck moving a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to create a special vanity license plate.

So, the industry front group has shifted its attention to the state Senate. As Gazette statehouse correspondent Phil Kabler reported this morning, Sen. Truman Chafin slipped the Friends of Coal language into another license plate bill that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee.

Chafin is a Democrat from Mingo County, which in West Virginia’s 4th largest coal-producing county, but also has more than 17 percent of its families living in poverty — almost twice the national average.

The original version of this bill, SB 78, was intended to provide special state license plates for members of the Patriot Guard, a  group that describes themselves as:

…a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security.

It was amended once previous, and that version added several other plates, including one with the words, “In God We Trust,” as well as special plates for nurses, firefighters,  and members of the West Virginia Bar Association.

As Phil explained, Chafin thinks the Friends of Coal plate could be a money-maker for the state “judging by the numbers of cars and trucks with “Friends of Coal” bumper stickers”:

“There’s a lot of people who would want that plate,” he said.

The DMV charges an extra $10 application fee, and an additional $15 annual renewal fee for specialty plates. The revenue goes into the state Road Fund.

Approval of this Friends of Coal plate would be a first for West Virginia. When I look at the DMV’s current list of specialty plates, I don’t see any others for special-interest political groups, let alone industry front organizations.  (Of course, I also wonder about the new language for a firefighter plate, because it looks like we already have one. Maybe the distinction is that the new one is for volunteer firefighters. Or maybe lawmakers don’t really read the laws that they’re trying to amend).

I have to wonder why lawmakers in this instance don’t create a more generic “coal miner” plate, rather than one that is so identified with the industry lobby efforts, as opposed to the hard-working folks who keep our lights on.