Brewer, a Republican, acted on the license plate bills late Thursday, approving them despite previously expressing concern about Arizona’s growing number of special plates that now number 46.
The tea party plate would feature the “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan, rattlesnake emblem and yellow background of the historic Gadsden Flag that is a symbol of the movement that espouses small government.
The Legislature completed action April 26 on the bill authorizing the tea party plate. In the run-up to approval, opponents said the tag inappropriately promotes a specific political movement. Supporters said it’s meant to stand up for constitutional principles.
Brewer felt comfortable signing the bill authorizing the tea party plate because the movement “is not a purely political organization,” spokesman Matt Benson said Friday.
“This is a group that supports the principles of limited government and the Constitution,” Benson said. “Tea party members or not, the governor believes that’s something most Arizonans can support.”
Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, of Phoenix, said it’s wrong to use state resources to support a political organization, whether the tea party or the Democratic Party. “Why not get a bumper sticker like everybody else?”
Backers now must raise $32,000 to design and produce the plate.
The bill for a tea party plate originally had a provision to have the state highway fund front the of startup costs to design and produce the plate. Supporters deleted that provision in the Senate when critics and some supporters said it was hypercritical for a small-government movement to seek government funding for a license plate.
Arizona charges $25 for a special plate. Of that, $8 is kept for administrative costs and $17 is a donation to the sponsoring organization.
Under the bill authorizing the tea party plate, some of money paid annually by people getting those plates would go to a newly created commission that would award grants to tea party-related projects and groups.
According to the bill, those appointed to the committee by legislative leaders would represent groups that promote tea party principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets.
Republican Sen. Don Shooter, the bill’s sponsor and a tea party leader in Yuma, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A Democratic congressman from New York has said he plans to introduce a bill that would cut off 15 percent of a state’s federal highway funds if that state provides a political group that advocates for the defeat of candidates any proceeds from the sale of a license plate.
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s office said he intended to introduce his bill in early May when Congress reconvenes.
A Nevada bill to create a tea party plate for that state died during the legislative session.
Other plates authorized in the three bills Brewer signed include one to honor Arizona’s centennial in 2012 and those for public television stations, law enforcement, childhood cancer research and the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team.
Arizona now has 46 special plates for a variety of groups, causes and purposes. Three others have been authorized, one as recently as April 13 in an earlier bill signed by Brewer.
Brewer signed that bill authorizing a special plate honoring women veterans but signaled concern about the growing number of special plates.
“Please consider the law enforcement community and the average citizen who have to identify, often in a split second, the vehicle’s license plate number and state of issuance,” she said in a letter to lawmakers.