License Plates

A new state law takes effect Wesdnesday, July 1, that removes the front license plate requirement for the first time in the Buckeye State since 1947.

The last time a front license plate was not required in Ohio was when the Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan was perhaps the most popular car on the road.

Until Wednesday, that is.

A new state law takes effect July 1 that removes the front license plate requirement for the first time in the Buckeye State since 1947.

A front plate had been required in Ohio since 1908, the same year Henry Ford began producing Model T cars at the company's Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit.

The state law was suspended during World War II (1944-1946), during a time when every scrap of steel was being used for things like tanks, ships, trucks and bullets needed to help the Allies earn victory.

The requirement came back as soon as the boys (and girls) came marching home, however.

The countdown for the end to the front plate in Ohio has been ticking since state lawmakers approved a two-year transportation bill in April 2019, ending years of debate over the requirement.

The front plate didn't go quietly and there is no guarantee future General Assemblies will not make it law again. Many law enforcement agencies opposed it in 2019 -- and likely still do -- saying it makes their job tougher when it comes to identifying suspects.

When asked about in 2019, Mount Vernon police captain Scott McKnight didn’t try to downplay the potential impact of the new license plate provision.

“Will it hinder our crime prevention, investigation, officer safety?” he asked. “Yes, it will.”

Ashland police Chief Dave Marcelli agreed.

“I see no valid reason to eliminate it, and yet the state legislature chose to do that. Officers use those front plates to identify cars every day. It may be something as simple as if I think somebody has a warrant and they’re driving towards me, the quickest way to identify that would be to run that plate.”

Many car enthusiasts believe the front plate has always reduced the asthetic look and value of cars by adding an ugly plate to the front end,  the spot where some would argue gives a vehicle the the distinctive part of its personality.

It was not even close to a unanimous decision in Columbus.

When it was approved in the Ohio House, 22 of 97 state representatives voted against it, though an increase in the state gas tax may have helped fuel that opposition. A third of the state's senators also voted against the bill, which identified July 1, 2020, as the day the front plate requirement died.

State Rep. Mark Romanchuk, whose district includes all of Richland County, said he opposed the bill for several reasons.

“I voted ‘no’ because there were several things I didn’t like about it,” he said. “There were a lot of reasons I voted ‘no.’ There was a gas tax increase on there too. The (license plate) was one of about 100 provisions, but I voted no on the whole thing so in a way, I voted against that.”

State Senate President Larry Obhof, whose district includes Richland Ashland counties, said the banishment of the front plate requirement was one lawmakers had considered for years.

“In just about every transportation budget since I first joined the legislature in 2011, one or the other chamber has tried to include a provision like this, so it’s been a long-standing issue.”

Obhof said other states, including those bordering Ohio, do not require front license plates. Actually, Ohio becomes the 20th, which means 30 states still do require it.

“A majority of states don’t have front license plates now, so this is really just catching up with what other states are doing,” he said.

Dropping the front-plate requirement will also save the state money, perhaps as much as $1.4 million annually.

That's because vehicle owners will pay the same amount for one license plate as they now pay for two.

You don't have to have a front license plate Wednesday. You just gotta pay like you do.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"