Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Wednesday that will eliminate the requirement that motorists must display a license plate on the front of their vehicles, a move that isn’t supported by local law enforcement.
The change is a part of a two-year state transportation budget that also increases Ohio’s tax on gas by 10.5 cents a gallon and the tax on diesel fuel by 19 cents to maintain deteriorating roads and bridges.
Included in the bill is a provision that eliminated the front plate requirement as of July 1, 2020, making Ohio one of 19 other states that do not require their drivers to display a front license plate.
“I can say that I do think it would affect how we are able to do our work effectively,” Brunswick Police Chief Brian Ohlin said Wednesday.
Ohlin said he is opposed to eliminating the front license plates.
Required by Ohio for more than 100 years, both front and rear license plates play an important role in helping police officers identify vehicles involved in criminal activity, Ohlin said.
If a witness reports a crime in progress, vehicle descriptions, including a license plate number, are “extremely helpful” to officers, he said.
Wadsworth police Lt. Dave Dorland said the state choosing to eliminate front license plates is an issue that law enforcement in Ohio generally have opposed.
“I know that our officers like to have the front type because it does make identifying vehicle registrations much easier,” Dorland said Wednesday.
Dorland said that one result of eliminating the front license plate requirement is that it then becomes considerably more difficult for officers to identify a vehicle that is coming toward them.
The bill was signed into law after lawmakers concluded negotiations and passed it.
Lawmakers sealed the deal Tuesday after the Ohio House of Representatives voted 71-27 and state Senate voted 22-10 in favor of it.
The gasoline tax increases mean Ohioans will pay a state tax rate of 38.5 cents per gallon on gas and 47 cents a gallon on diesel fuel starting July 1.
The measure also sets fees at $200 for alternative vehicles and $100 for hybrid vehicle.
While DeWine could have used his authority to line-item veto portions of the bill, including the portion dealing with license plates, he declined to do so.
Medina County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ken Baca said eliminating front license plates creates a safety issue for law enforcement.
“What is nice about (vehicles having a front license plate) is that you don’t have to get behind a vehicle to be able to see what the plate is, you can see it from the front,” Baca said Wednesday.
Dorland said eliminating front license plates also could affect the ability for witnesses to provide information to police, potentially costing authorities valuable witness information.
“It is something that we hate to see be removed as an option,” Dorland said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.