Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha had requested their own Kansas License tag, an effort that Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) had been working to get approved for several years. This year, Finney and the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha scored a victory with their new custom tag approved as part of a package of distinctive license plates.
Included in the package along with plates to support state educators, veterans, and raising money to fight child-hood cancer, is also a tag for the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta, who are probably surprised by this tag, which they hadn’t been working to secure. The tag for the Deltas was a last minute amendment to the bill, proposed by Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City), who has a long history of Deltas in his family.
Also included in the bill was the approval of a “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate, which came under scru-tiny by Democrats for its association with a former slave owner. The plate is modeled after the Gadsden flag, a yellow flag bearing a hissing snake designed by Christopher Gadsden.
In addition to being a slave owner, Gadsden also built a wharf in Charleston, where an estimated 100,000 enslaved Africans landed in the United States. These
negative connotations pushed several senators to speak out against the package despite a desire to support other plates that could bring awareness and funding to good causes.
In recent years, the Gadsden flag has become a favorite among Tea Party enthusiasts, Second Amendment supporters, and the Libertarian Party. It has begun to stand for the rights of individuals, and is often associated with anyone who gets riled up by the idea of government overreach.
“We should recoil that we’re going to put Gadsden’s name and this flag that represents slavery in our Kansas record,” said Haley, who voted in favor of the measure. “I don’t want to
throw the baby out with the bath water for all the good that 2166 does to support those
Finney other organizations, but I hope we’ll do a public education campaign to make sure those that bear the Don’t Tread on Me flag are tacitly supporting a vile, racist, slavery-oriented past.”
During debate in the Senate, Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) proposed an amendment to remove the controversial flag from the measure. She said the license plate should have an individual committee hearing where concerns may be voiced before final approval.
Sykes’ amendment failed 15-15, short of the majority needed to approve the change.
The specialty plates are often used as fundraisers for organizations, with
the authorizing group able to set the price for the plate and the extra proceeds from the sales benefitting the organization. The bill, as revised this year, requires the organizations to sell at least 250 of the tags and requires a $2,500 up-front fee for design of the specialty plate.
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was ap-proved for a specialty tag in Kansas several years ago, but never issued it. At that time, the state’s policy required a $5,000 up-front free for design of the plate and the requirement of a minimum 500 tags. The revised policy may help reengage the Omegas’ stalled efforts.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) chose to pass when voting on the bundle. She said approving license plate after license plate demonstrated Kansas had lost focus on what they are for.
“They’re there to identify a vehicle. They’re not there to supplant a bake sale,” McGinn said. “I hope as we move forward, we really think about all the different tags that we come up with and focus on why we have licensed tags.