Standard Iowa license plates have the count name at the bottom. (DOT photo)

A Senate committee may soon debate the concept of leaving the county name off the bottom of some Iowa license plates.

Iowa is one of five states that have county names listed on the standard state license plate. Brad Epperly, a lobbyist for the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association, said the proposal would create the option for a generic plate that doesn’t list the county where the vehicle’s owner lives.

“We have a number of plates already, specialty plates that don’t have county names on them,” Epperly said.

Iowa offers 63 “specialty” license plates and only three list county names at the bottom. The Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association is opposed to the bill.

“The concern from law enforcement at the local level is that it is an investigational tool. A lot of times people won’t get or remember the number on a license plate in a situation, but they might remember the county,” Susan Daeman, the association’s lobbyist, said. “…The other issue is these names on the plates are just highly popular with the people.”

Daeman said a survey of county sheriffs in Iowa found 77% were opposed to the idea.

“I realize that it could be useful on occasion,” Epperly said of the county imprint on a license plate, “but I don’t think that those 45 states have a bunch of cold case files simply because they don’t have county names on plates…We know what the fight is to remove county names…We just want a generic option.”

The Iowa D-O-T estimates it could save nearly a quarter of a million dollars over a 10 year period if all the standard-issue license plates were generic and county names were not imprinted on the bottom. According to the Automobile Dealers Association, a generic option could help with supply chain issues, as some counties don’t have an adequate supply of license plates stamped with the county name.

The generic license plate concept has cleared a subcommittee and the bill is now eligible for debate in the Senate Transportation Committee.