JACKSON – Blame another thing on the tight budget in Jackson.
Those blue license plates featuring BB King’s legendary guitar “Lucille” will be staying around for at least another year. The “Birthplace of America’s Music” plate was introduced in October 2012 and replaced the Biloxi Lighthouse plate that debuted in 2007 and paid homage to the resilience of the Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
The Mississippi Department of Revenue was scheduled to release new license plates in October – as it does every 5 years. But the Legislature did not issue funds for the re-issue, said Kathy Waterbury, the government affairs and communications director for the department.
“I don’t know when we’ll have a new image,” she said, and that is something she said the department will be taking up with the Legislature during the next session.
“Even though we’re not getting a new design on the plates, beginning in January we are moving to 7 characters on plates,” she said. Instead of the current three letters and three numbers, the new plates will have three letters followed by four numbers.
These new 7-character tags will be issued to those getting a new plate. That is primarily those buying a new vehicle, she said, because tags can’t be transferred from one vehicle to another. Others will get the new tag if their plate is damaged or stolen.
Although Mississippi law provides that the Department of Revenue re-issue the plates once every 5 years, Waterbury said most drivers will keep their current plate.
“Up until about the ’70s, we got a new plate every year. As costs escalated, we moved to once every 5 years,” she said.
Drivers tired of the current design can go shopping on the Department of Revenue website for one of the many specialty plates available in Mississippi or a “vanity plate” with a personalized message. Among the specialty plates are New Orleans Saints’ tags that benefit Infinity Science Center and tags that benefit high schools, colleges and many other groups. The cost of the plate is in addition to the annual vehicle registration fees.
But even if the state’s drivers don’t notice any changes around license plates anytime soon, the state’s county tax collector offices will.
“We are going to a new web-based system for titles, registrations, renewals, the whole gamut of motor vehicles,” said Lee County Tax Collector Leroy Belk.
This change will impact all of Mississippi’s counties, and Belk expects it to go live in early October. Training efforts are underway now, but Belk warned that some delays may occur as staff learn an entirely new system.
“It is a great big leap from where we were,” Belk said. “We’re jumping about 30-35 years of technology.”