Pine Bluff man pushing for act to make vehicles 25 years or older eligible for antique license plates

Enthusiast wants vehicle age changed from 45 to 25 years

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER 10-18-07.Antique Tags - 1915 Model T owned by Mike Walker.Mike Walker says that he's proud to have a low number antique car plate for his 1915 Model T.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER 10-18-07.Antique Tags - 1915 Model T owned by Mike Walker.Mike Walker says that he's proud to have a low number antique car plate for his 1915 Model T.

David Dinwiddie of Pine Bluff, who works at several car dealerships, wants Arkansas voters to make vehicles 25 years or older eligible for antique motor vehicle license plates in Arkansas.

In the 2019 regular session, the Legislature enacted Act 368 -- sponsored by Rep. Jack Fortner, R-Yellville -- to change the eligibility requirements for antique motor vehicle license plates from vehicles 25 years or older to vehicles 45 years or older.

At that time, Fortner told state lawmakers the state's antique car tag was first issued in 1957.

"It was meant to honor the collector car hobby," he said. "It was never meant as a one-time $7 tag forever for a car to drive."

In 2019, Fortner told lawmakers that he had four antique license plates, "but I think fair is fair and right is right, and this is an antique car tag and it is a privilege to have it and we should respect that privilege."

Act 368 of 2019 has meant that collectors are only able to obtain antique license plates for vehicles that are 45 years old or more, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration.

For a vehicle less than 45 years old that had already been issued an antique license plate prior to the 2019 law change, the owner is not required to be issued a regular license plate, the finance department said.

The official change in the state system was made July 24, 2019, said finance department spokesman Scott Hardin.

The first antique car tag in Arkansas was established in 1957 by Act 120, he said.

It allowed for registration of an antique vehicle if it was at least 25 years old with a one time $5 fee without the requirement for annual renewal, Hardin said. The payment of personal property taxes are required on an antique vehicle, he said.

Overall, there are 174,291 antique plates in Arkansas, he said.

On Oct. 18 and Nov. 13, Attorney General Tim Griffin rejected Dinwiddie's first two versions of proposed ballot language for Dinwiddie's proposed initiated act.

Griffin, a Republican, said in a letter dated Nov. 13 to Dinwiddie that he rejected his proposed ballot title as misleading because of ambiguities in the text of Dinwiddie's proposal.

"Since you are proposing what Amendment 7 refers to as a 'bill,' you may wish to review examples of bills filed by legislators and drafted by professional drafters," he wrote in his letter to Dinwiddie. "These examples, which are available at the legislature's website, demonstrate how proposed statutes indicate the provisions of current law to be stricken and what new provisions will be added. This manner of legislative drafting provides the clarity needed to ensure your ballot title is not misleading."

On Nov. 22, Dinwiddie submitted his third version of proposed popular names and ballot titles for the ballot measure to the attorney general's office, according to the attorney general's office records.

He said Thursday he submitted this proposed initiated act because "I know how much new cars cost," and not everybody can afford a newer automobile.

"Plus, it is important to have older cars so we can learn about style and technology," Dinwiddie said.

He said in a written statement that Fortner "don't want anybody to have old cars, he wants everybody to have new cars with trackers, because he's a Commie."

In response, Fortner said Friday that "The reason I wrote the antique car tag bill that extended the age from 25 to 45 years old was at the request of car collectors, and individuals who felt that the life time seven dollar tag was being abused.

"I personally am a car collector and love and appreciate all old cars," he said. "It was never my intention to harm the old car hobby, but to protect it. There were individuals who were abusing it to just get a cheap registration and we didn't feel it was fair or equitable to the Arkansas taxpayers."

Fortner's bill that became Act 368 of 2019 zipped through the Arkansas House of Representatives in an 88-4 vote on Feb. 21, 2019.

The measure initially fell five votes short of approval in the 35-member Senate in a 13-14 vote Feb. 27, 2019, according to the Arkansas General Assembly's website. Several days later, the Senate voted 24-7 to send the bill to then-Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

In 2009, then-Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza rebuffed Dinwiddie's efforts to sue then-Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe on claims that the state's tobacco taxes are collected and distributed illegally.

Piazza sided with state attorneys in ruling that he didn't have the authority to order a review of how tobacco tax dollars are spent, which Dinwiddie had sought, and that Dinwiddie couldn't bring a class-action lawsuit against Beebe because Dinwiddie isn't an attorney and cannot represent anybody but himself in court. Piazza said Dinwiddie needed to take his cause to the Legislature, not the courtroom.

As a Libertarian candidate, Dinwiddie has lost state Senate races races in 2012 and 2022 to Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and for state auditor in 2018 to then-state Auditor Andrea Lea, R-Russellville. He also ran unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate for governor in 2010 and for Jefferson County justice of the peace in 2020.

If Griffin certifies his proposed popular name and ballot title for his proposed initiative act, Dinwiddie said "he plans to contact some Antique Car Clubs, where there are old men with money to spend on cars and getting the issue on the ballot."

The number of antique plates issued by the state has decreased significantly since Act 368 of 2019 went into effect, according to Hardin.

"To put this in perspective, we issued 10,420 new antique plates in 2019. However, the total dropped to 2,942 new plates in 2020," he said.

The state issued 3,427 new antique plates in 2021, and then issued 3,470 in 2022, Hardin said

He said the state has issued 3,475 new antique plates so far in 2023.

At a cost of $7 per antique plate, it is not a large revenue source for the state, he said. For example, the 3,470 plates issued in 2022 resulted in $24,290 in revenue, Hardin said.