Enough is enough on the specialty license plates in South Carolina.
In fact, enough was enough a long time ago. Yet the state legislature continues to churn out laws adding specialty plate options, now well more than 500.
Two bills adding new tags were approved by the legislature this year, with one of them already signed into law by the governor.
A bill originating in the House gives supporters of all public and private high schools in the state -- some 200 of them -- the option to get a specialty plate.
It also enshrines the unofficial symbol of the tea party -- a rattle snake and the words "Don't Tread on Me" -- as a license plate option.
License plates should return to their roots and serve the simple, clear purpose of identifying vehicles. A state promotion -- such as "Palmetto State," "Keystone State," "Empire State" -- worked well, but today license plates here and around the country are seen more as a bumper sticker to make a plethora of personal statements.
The problem the legislature has is that once this concept got started, it's hard to stop.
The list of groups or concepts honored in the new laws includes veterans of all branches of service, recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, Eagle Scouts, parents and spouses of active duty overseas veterans, the state flag, coon dogs, chief petty officers, the U.S. Marine Corps, history, retired S.C. Highway Patrol workers, libraries, Boy Scouts, educators, beach music, Citadel alumni and the "Big Red" flag, largemouth bass, the S.C. Wildlife Federation, Mary McLeod Bethune and combat-related disabled veterans.
In the past, organizations as close to home as the Heritage Classic Foundation and Beaufort Water Festival have gotten specialty plates. Those plates are common sights around town, and money from each tag goes to these good causes.
Specialty plates are supposed to be cost-neutral to the state. Groups that want to get a specialty plate have to put up $6,800 and get a certain number of plates ordered before it can happen. Those who want the plates pay $30 above the normal fees every two years. And by and large the proceeds go to the special groups.
Our problem is not with the organizations, unless it's political. The problem is that the state has better things to do. The job of keeping up with all these tags has gotten much trickier. And the wide array of tags can make it harder on law enforcement, as well as citizens who might help law enforcement by clearly identifying a license plate.
As well-meaning as the specialty-plate concept may have been when it started, the door is going to have to be shut at some point. The sooner that happens, the better.