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Kansas House Lawmakers Vote to Ease Rules for Antique Car License Plates

The bill would allow the plates for any vehicles older than 35 years. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

More classic cars in Kansas would qualify for special antique plates under a bill House lawmakers approved this week.

The bill would change state law so any vehicle 35 years old could qualify for a special antique plate and the one-time $40 registration fee that comes with it. Under current rules, vehicles more than 35 years old must be as original as possible to qualify. Supporters of the change say the policy isn’t clear and can be difficult to enforce.

The policies now mean vehicles with modifications like a newer engine, or even different wheels and tires than original, could be violating the rules and risking legal trouble.

Republican Rep. Stephen Owens said a vehicle he owns may violate the rules because it doesn’t have the original engine.

“The reality is here,” Owens said, “people have no idea that they were in violation of the law to begin with.”

Republican Rep. Leo Delperdang said modifying something like a vehicle’s brakes could violate the antique vehicle rules but ultimately make the car safer to drive on Kansas roads.

To him, the vehicle’s age, not modifications, should determine whether it qualifies for antique status.

“In many cases, aftermarket parts are placed on a vehicle simply because there are no original replacement parts available,” Delperdang said.

Classic cars can also be registered with a regular plate, but those require annual registration fees instead of the one-time fee that comes with the antique plate. Either registration still comes with annual property tax bills.

The lack of clarity, Delperdang said, causes difficult for police trying to enforce the law.

“They’re confused on is this really an older vehicle, it may have modern parts on it. How do I look at it?” Delperdang said. “This hopefully cleans that issue up.”

The Kansas Department of Revenue said there are 68,000 vehicles in the age range covered by the antique plates. If all of the owner’s switched to antique plates it would reduce registration fees going to the state by nearly $2 million per year.

That potential loss of road funding had Democratic Rep. Jeff Pittman concerned. The more lenient rules might entice people to switch vehicles to antique plates. To combat that, Pittman suggested a cap of 5,000 miles driven per year for vehicles with antique tags.

“Put some kind of control in place so that not all cars that are 35 years and older would actually be able to get this license plate,” Pittman said during House debate.

The House rejected that amendment and then approved the bill with a vote of 124-1, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

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