Mississippi’s blue guitar license plates remain until Legislature provides money for new design

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 DOR.

“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 DOR 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 DOR 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.

South Mississippi also has a new One Coast specialty license plate priced at $31. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast is close to its goal of selling 300 of the specialty license plates, said Erin Rosetti, PR/media manager, and $24 of the cost will help support Coast tourism.

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