Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of both the Senate Finance and Interim Finance committees this year, said Wednesday that the DMV’s apparent violation of state law is a concern.
She was referring to the fact that Nevada’s 150th birthday license plates are being made in Oregon. But she said she isn’t sure what can be done at this point.
The colorful and complicated plates are being made by Irwin Hodson Co. of Portland because Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles officials say their equipment and that of 3M, which supplies the state’s plate materials, can’t do the job.
“Of course I’m concerned about any agency not following statute, and I’m always on the record wanting more state dollars utilized in this state,” she said. “However, at this point in time, since the information was not brought forward during session, there isn’t much to be done.”
“Thousands of plates have been produced and sold, and it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to change now,” Smith said.
The DMV already has purchased more than 8,000 of the plates and sold more than 2,000, raising some $55,000 for the Sesquicentennial Commission planning the yearlong celebration of Nevada’s statehood.
The Legislative Counsel asked DMV officials to explain themselves, given that NRS482.267 says all Nevada plates must be produced in Nevada by the Department of Corrections.
The response to LCB’s legal division Wednesday was the same explanation DMV Director Troy Dillard and governor’s Chief of Staff Gerald Gardner gave the Appeal on Tuesday: The plates were manufactured in Oregon but produced in Nevada, and manufacturing is only one part of the production process.
Smith said she asked why the plates weren’t made here when they came out and was told the state’s “tag plant” doesn’t have the necessary equipment to produce the plates, which are multi-colored with a dark-blue background, reflective paint and embossed letters and numbers.
“I certainly did not realize they were in violation of the statute,” she said. “I don’t think it came up during the hearing on the main bill or in the budget subcommittee hearings.”
The plate itself, she said, looks great with the “Battle Born” insignia and embossed numbers.
“I have one on my car,” she said. “I think they’re just terrific.”
DMV officials sidestepped a question about why, if Nevada couldn’t make the design, the design wasn’t changed. The design was approved by the Sesquicentennial commission and the governor’s office.
Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs said Wednesday that he doesn’t necessarily buy the DMV’s explanation, but it’s not his job to enforce the law and his office plans no further review.
“It doesn’t mean we are satisfied they have complied with the statute,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we are OK with it. We’re not OK with it. I’d just say it is their job, not ours. We don’t enforce the statute.”
DMV spokesman David Fierro provided AP Wednesday with a copy of the agency’s interpretation that it is complying with the requirement that the prison’s “license plate factory must be utilized within the production process of license plates of the state of Nevada.
“Although the manufacture of sesquicentennial 150th commemorative license plates is outsourced, the license plate factor’s DMV (unpaid) staff and inmate workforce continue to play critical roles in the overall production,” the DMV statement said.
Factory staff in Carson City receive the orders, place them with the vendor and then either pick up the products or they are shipped to Carson City. Factory staffers then allocate, inventory and distribute the plates to DMV offices throughout the state, DMV said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.