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There seems to be one thing almost all Iowans agree on – they like the new blackout license plates.

According to recent data from the Iowa Department of Transportation, nearly half of the approximately 220,000 specialty Iowa license plates on the road today are blackout plates. This is remarkable because the blackout plate has only been available since July 1, 2019.

I am proud to have been a driving force behind this new license plate!

In fall 2018, I received an email from someone regarding confusion about the Dordt College license plate. Some Iowans purchased the Dordt College license plate, and then used special license plate frames to obscure the Dordt College logos and create a black and white license plate. Some of these people were being told that using the frames was legal, while others were being pulled over and ticketed.

This person asked that the Legislature clear up the confusion by legalizing the use of these frames. To me, it made more sense to create a black and white license plate. After all, that was what people who bought the frames really wanted.

Once session started, I worked with state Senator Jeff Edler to add language creating a blackout license plate to a bill he sponsored relating to vehicle window tint. That bill did not advance in the legislative process, but there had not been any objections to the blackout plate language in the bill.

Working with Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, we added the blackout plate language to a budget bill at the end of the legislative session. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds

As a result of this legislation, blackout license plates went on sale on July 1, 2019.

Many Iowans are surprised to learn that this is not the first time Iowa offered its citizens a black and white license plate. Iowa’s first known license plates were made from black leather with white or silver aluminum letters. Starting with state-issued license plates in the 1910s, the state would give Iowans a new license plate every year. Oftentimes, the color scheme was black and white.

The blackout plate is a throwback for many to the 1979-1996 period when Iowa had simple license plate designs with a solid background color, “Iowa” at the top, and the county name at the bottom. In an era when many states are cramming messages onto license plates, the blackout plate seems to be a welcome reprieve.

Also, the blackout plate just looks cool.

Charles Schneider

Author: Charles Schneider

Senator Charles Schneider was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2012, and was re-elected in 2016. Senator Schneider’s peers have elected him to a leadership position since 2014. Before his election to the Iowa Senate, Senator Schneider served on the West Des Moines City Council from 2007 to 2012. He chaired the council’s Finance and Administration Subcommittee and served on the council’s Public Safety Subcommittee. Senator Schneider is also counsel for Principal Financial Group, where he has worked since 2007. Before joining Principal, he was a lawyer with the law firm of Dickinson Mackaman Tyler & Hagen, PC.