TITLE 43. TRANSPORTATION

PART 10. TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES

CHAPTER 217. VEHICLE TITLES AND REGISTRATION

SUBCHAPTER B. MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION

43 TAC §217.27

INTRODUCTION. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (department) proposes to amend Title 43 Texas Administrative Code, Subchapter B, §217.27 concerning personalized license plates. The amendments are necessary to clarify and modify the criteria for determining whether a personalized alphanumeric pattern is potentially objectionable under Transportation Code §504.008(e).

Section 504.008(e) authorizes the department to refuse to issue a specialty license plate with a personalized alphanumeric pattern that the director or the director's designee determines to be potentially objectionable to one or more members of the public. Section 217.27 implements §504.008(e) by setting out criteria for identifying alphanumeric patterns that may be potentially objectionable. The department has determined that the current rule needs to be less restrictive to allow personalized alphanumeric patterns that are not objectionable.

The department proposes substantive and non-substantive changes to amended §217.27.

The non-substantive changes renumber current subsections (e) - (g) as subsections (f) - (h) to accommodate renumbered subsection (e), correct spelling and grammar, revise for consistency in terms, and revise for plain English readability.

EXPLANATION.

Amended §217.27(d)(1) corrects spelling.

Amended §217.27(d)(2) deletes redundant language related to the term, "director," because this term is defined in §217.22(13); and adds "in any language" to words, phrases, or slang that may be objectionable. In the definition of "indecent," the amendment replaces "excrement" with "excreta"; modifies "bodily fluids and functions" by adding "sexual"; and adds "with the full year" to allow the alphanumeric pattern "1969." In the definitions of "vulgar" and "derogatory," the amendment adds "directly or indirectly" to specify that a reference may be directly or indirectly vulgar or derogatory. The amendment adds new criteria, "a direct or indirect negative instruction or command directed at another individual related to the operation of a motor vehicle," and deletes "reference to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation whether the reference is derogatory or not." The amendment adds "direct or indirect" to certain references, such as gangs, illegal activities, controlled substances, and drug abuse; deletes the terms "violence" and "illegal drugs" as redundant. The amendment adds "direct" to qualify the term "representation of law enforcement or other governmental entities"; adds "exclusive to government" to qualify the term "public office or position"; and deletes "military or law enforcement rank or status, or any other official government position or status." The amendment adds "a pattern that could be misread by law enforcement," and deletes "deceptively similar to a military, restricted distribution, or other specialty plate."

Amended §217.27(d)(3) adds "on a license plate" to clarify that the department will not issue an alphanumeric pattern that is currently on a license plate that has been issued to another owner.

Amended renumbered §217.27(e), formerly subsection (d)(4), is renumbered to a separate subsection because the content relates to patterns the department may approve rather than patterns that may be objectionable. Renumbered subsection (e) authorizes the department to issue license plates with personalized alphanumeric patterns that refer to "military branches, military rank, military units, military equipment, or status."

Amended renumbered §217.27(f), formerly subsection (e), changes the date that begins the count of 30 days, at the end of which the executive director or the executive director's designee issues a decision on appeal of a denial. In the current rule, the count of 30 days begins after the submission of the appeal. The proposed amendment replaces "submission of" with "department receives," to clarify the starting point for the calculation of 30 days. The proposed amendments also clarify other language in subsection (f).

Amended renumbered §217.27(g), formerly subsection (f), renumbers the subsection.

Amended renumbered §217.27(h), formerly subsection (g), changes options for an applicant whose initial application for a personalized alphanumeric pattern is denied. The proposed amendment adds that the applicant "will" receive a refund, "if the denial is not appealed in accordance with subsection (f)." The proposed amendment deletes the current option of selecting a new alphanumeric pattern after an initial application has been denied. The amended subsection clarifies that an owner of a canceled license plate may choose a new personalized alphanumeric pattern for the remainder of the term of the canceled license plate, or the remainder of the term will be forfeited.

FISCAL NOTE AND LOCAL EMPLOYMENT IMPACT STATEMENT. Glenna Bowman, Chief Financial Officer, has determined that for each year of the first five years the proposed amended section will be in effect, there will be no fiscal impact to the state or local governments as a result of the enforcement or administration of the proposal. Roland D. Luna, Sr., Director of the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, has determined that there will be no measurable effect on local employment or the local economy as a result of the proposal, because the overall number of applications will not be affected.

PUBLIC BENEFIT AND COST NOTE. Mr. Luna has also determined that, for each year of the first five years the amended section is in effect, there are public benefits anticipated because the amended section provides more flexibility, allowing the department to accept alphanumeric patterns that are not objectionable.

Anticipated Costs To Comply With The Proposal. Mr. Luna anticipates that there will be no additional costs to comply with this rule because the rule does not establish any additional requirements on a regulated person.

ECONOMIC IMPACT STATEMENT AND REGULATORY FLEXIBILITY ANALYSIS. As required by Government Code §2006.002, the department has determined that the proposed amendments will not have an adverse economic effect on small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities, because the rule does not add new requirements on, or directly affect, small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities. Therefore, the department is not required to prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis under Government Code, §2006.002.

TAKINGS IMPACT ASSESSMENT. The department has determined that no private real property interests are affected by this proposal and that this proposal does not restrict or limit an owner's right to property that would otherwise exist in the absence of government action and, therefore, does not constitute a taking or require a takings impact assessment under Government Code, §2007.043.

GOVERNMENT GROWTH IMPACT STATEMENT. The department has determined that each year of the first five years the proposed amendments are in effect, no government program would be created or eliminated. Implementation of the proposed amendments would not require the creation of new employee positions or elimination of existing employee positions. Implementation would not require an increase or decrease in future legislative appropriations to the department or an increase or decrease of fees paid to the department. The proposed amendments do not create a new regulation, or expand, limit, or repeal an existing regulation. Lastly, the proposed amendments do not affect the number of individuals subject to the rule's applicability and will not affect this state's economy.

REQUEST FOR PUBLIC COMMENT.

If you want to comment on the proposal, submit your written comments by 5:00 p.m. CST on August 15, 2022. A request for a public hearing must be sent separately from your written comments. Send written comments or hearing requests by email to rules@txdmv.gov or by mail to Office of General Counsel, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, 4000 Jackson Avenue, Austin, Texas 78731. If a hearing is held, the department will consider written comments and public testimony presented at the hearing.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY. The department proposes amendments to §217.27 in accordance with Transportation Code §504.0011 and §1002.001.

- Transportation Code §504.0011 authorizes the board to adopt rules to implement and administer Transportation Code Chapter 504.

- Transportation Code §1002.001 authorizes the board to adopt rules that are necessary and appropriate to implement the powers and the duties of the department.

CROSS REFERENCE TO STATUTE. Transportation Code §504.008.

§217.27.Vehicle Registration Insignia.

(a) On receipt of a complete initial application for registration with the accompanying documents and fees, the department will issue vehicle registration insignia to be displayed on or kept in the vehicle for which the registration was issued for the current registration period.

(1) If the vehicle has a windshield, the symbol, tab, or other device prescribed by and issued by the department shall be attached to the inside lower left corner of the vehicle's front windshield in a manner that will not obstruct the vision of the driver, unless the vehicle is registered under Transportation Code, Chapter 504, Subchapter B-1.

(2) If the vehicle has no windshield, the symbol, tab, or other device prescribed by and issued by the department shall be attached to the rear license plate unless the vehicle is registered under Transportation Code, Chapter 504, Subchapter B-1, except that registration receipts, retained inside the vehicle, may provide the record of registration for vehicles with permanent trailer plates.

(3) If the vehicle is registered under Transportation Code, Chapter 504, Subchapter B-1, the registration receipt, symbol, tab, or other device prescribed by and issued by the department must be retained with the vehicle and may provide the record of registration for vehicles with a digital license plate. The expiration month and year must appear digitally on the electronic visual display of the rear digital license plate.

(4) If the vehicle is registered as a former military vehicle as prescribed by Transportation Code, §504.502, the vehicle's registration number shall be displayed instead of displaying a symbol, tab, or license plate.

(A) Former military vehicle registration numbers shall be displayed on a prominent location on the vehicle in numbers and letters of at least two inches in height.

(B) To the extent possible, the location and design of the former military vehicle registration number must conform to the vehicle's original military registration number.

(b) Unless otherwise prescribed by law, each vehicle registered under this subchapter:

(1) must display two license plates that are clearly visible, readable, and legible, one at the exterior front and one at the exterior rear of the vehicle that are securely fastened at the exterior front and rear of the vehicle in an upright horizontal position of not less than 12 inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom, except that a vehicle described by Transportation Code, §621.2061 may place the rear plate so that it is clearly visible, readable, and legible; or

(2) must display one plate that is securely fastened at or as close as practical to the exterior rear of the vehicle in a position not less than 12 inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom if the vehicle is a road tractor, motorcycle, trailer or semitrailer.

(c) Each vehicle registered under this subchapter must display license plates:

(1) assigned by the department for the period; or

(2) validated by a registration insignia issued by the department for a registration period consisting of 12 consecutive months at the time of application for registration, except that:

(A) trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers not subject to inspection under §548.052(3) may obtain a registration insignia for a period consisting of 12, 24, 36, 48 or 60 consecutive months on payment of all fees for each full year of registration; and

(B) vehicles may be registered for 24 consecutive months in accordance with Transportation Code, §548.102 on payment of all fees for each year of registration, regardless of the number of months remaining on the inspection at the time of registration, provided:

(i) the vehicle receives a two-year inspection under Transportation Code, §548.102; and

(ii) the application for registration is made in the name of the purchaser under Transportation Code, §501.0234.

(d) The department may cancel any license plate issued with a personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric ] pattern [that was issued] if the department subsequently determines or discovers that the personalized alphanumeric pattern did not comply [license plate was not in compliance] with this section [these guidelines] when the license plate was issued, or if due to changing language usage, meaning, or interpretation, the personalized alphanumeric pattern no longer complies [license plate has become non-compliant ] with this section [these guidelines]. When reviewing a personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric ] pattern, the department need not consider the applicant's subjective intent or declared meaning. The department will not issue any license plate containing a personalized alphanumeric [an alpha-numeric] pattern that meets one or more of the following criteria:[.]

(1) The alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern conflicts with the department's current or proposed regular license plate numbering system.

(2) The director [of the department's Vehicle Titles and Registration Division] or the director's designee finds that the personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern may be considered objectionable. An objectionable alphanumeric pattern may include[, including plate patterns that feature foreign or slang] words, [or] phrases, or slang in any language; [use] phonetic, numeric, or reverse spelling;[,] acronyms;[,] patterns viewed in mirror image;[,] or [use a] code that [which] only a small segment of the community may be able to readily decipher. An[, that may be considered] objectionable [or misleading, including that the] pattern may be viewed as[, directly or indirectly]:

(A) indecent (defined as including a direct reference or connotation to a sexual act, sexual body parts, excreta [excrement], or sexual bodily fluids or functions. Additionally, the alphanumeric pattern "69" is [formats are] prohibited unless used with the full year (1969) or in combination with a reference to a [the ] vehicle [make, for example, "69 CHEV".)];

(B) vulgar, directly or indirectly [a vulgarity] (defined as profane, swear, or curse words);

(C) derogatory, directly or indirectly (defined as an expression that is demeaning to, belittles, or disparages any person, group, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. "Derogatory" may also include a reference[, or refers] to an organization that advocates the [such ] expressions described in this subparagraph);

(D) a direct or indirect negative instruction or command directed at another individual related to the operation of a motor vehicle [ reference to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation whether the reference is derogatory or not];

(E) a direct or indirect reference to gangs, illegal activities, [violence,] implied threats of harm, or expressions that describe, advertise, advocate, promote, encourage, glorify, or condone violence, crime, or unlawful conduct;

(F) a direct or indirect reference to [illegal drugs,] controlled substances or[,] the physiological state produced by such substances, intoxicated states, or a direct or indirect reference [references] that may express, describe, advertise, advocate, promote, encourage, or glorify such substances [items] or states;

(G) a direct representation of[, or reference to,] law enforcement[, military branches,] or other governmental entities [and their titles], including any reference to a public office or position exclusive to government[, military or law enforcement rank or status, or any other official government position or status]; or

(H) a pattern that could be misread by law enforcement [deceptively similar to a military, restricted distribution, or other specialty plate].

(3) The alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern is currently on a license plate issued to another owner.

(e) [(4)] Notwithstanding the provisions of [limitations on issuance of plate patterns in] this section, [subsection,] the department may issue license plates with personalized alphanumeric patterns that refer to:

(1) a military branches, military rank, military units, military equipment, or status; or

(2) [publicly and privately funded] institutions of higher education, including military academies, whether funded privately, by the state, or by the federal government [by state or federal sources, or both].

(f) [(e)] A decision to cancel or not to issue a license plate with a personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern under subsection (d) of this section may be appealed to the executive director of the department or the executive director's designee within 20 days of notification of the cancellation or non-issuance. All appeals must be in writing, and the requesting party may include any written arguments, but shall not be entitled to a contested case hearing. The executive director or the executive director's designee will [consider the requesting party's arguments and] issue a decision no later than 30 days after the department receives [submission of] the appeal, unless additional information is sought from the requestor, in which case the time for decision is tolled until the additional information is provided. The decision of the executive director or the executive director's designee is final and may not be appealed to the board. An appeal to the executive director or the executive director's designee is denied by operation of law 31 days from the receipt [submission] of the appeal, or if the requestor does not provide additional requested information within ten days of the request.

(g) [(f)] The provisions of subsection (a) of this section do not apply to vehicles registered with annual license plates issued by the department.

(h) [(g)] A person whose initial application has been denied will [may either] receive a refund if the denial is not appealed in accordance with subsection (f) of this section [or select a new alpha-numeric pattern]. If an existing license plate with a personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern has been canceled [cancelled], the person may choose a new personalized alphanumeric [alpha-numeric] pattern that [which] will be valid for the remainder of the term, or the remaining term of the canceled license plate will be forfeited [forfeit the remaining term purchased].

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the proposal and found it to be within the state agency's legal authority to adopt.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on June 30, 2022.

TRD-202202458

Elizabeth Brown Fore

General Counsel

Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

Earliest possible date of adoption: August 14, 2022

For further information, please call: (512) 465-5665