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Bill to allow emoji on license plates could be a boon for Vermont, supporters say

  • A sample license plate from Queeensland, Australia, includes a sunglasses emoji. The Australian initiative to bring emoji to license plates inspired a bill currently making its way through the Vermont Legislature. (Personalised Plates Queensland)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2020 10:14:22 PM
Modified: 1/28/2020 10:38:02 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A new bill that a could allow Vermont drivers to add a smiley face, a heart or maybe another symbol to their license plates could drum up interest from visitors, as well as potential revenue for the state, according to some supporters.

The bill, which was introduced this month by state Rep. Rebecca White, D-Hartford, would allow drivers to choose one of six emoji to put on their license plates. The emoji would not replace existing text on a license plate, but instead would sit under or next to the lettering. White said the process would be like getting a vanity plate or any other specialty license plate, though the cost of adding an emoji hasn’t been determined yet.

It’s inspired by a similar measure out of Queensland, Australia, which passed last year and lets drivers choose one of five emoji for their license plates, including a face wearing sunglasses and a winking face emoji. The cost of the decorative plate there would be an additional $320 fee, according to the BBC.

The Vermont bill does not specify which six emoji would be allowed.

White credited one of her constituents, Gene Cassidy, of White River Junction, with inspiring the bill.

“I think it’s a fun idea and it has the potential to raise revenue,” White said.

Cassidy, a former news editor at a newspaper in suburban Boston and the father of Valley News editor Maggie Cassidy, said he’s not sure how much revenue the new plates would raise, but he’s interested in how the measure could affect the way people think about Vermont.

“The state is aging,” the 65-year-old Cassidy said, adding that having the emoji license plates could interest more people — especially younger people — in moving to Vermont. “I just thought it was something that people would be attracted to, and that it would gain some attention for Vermont.”

Area police had mixed opinions about the proposal.

Royalton Police Chief Loretta Stalnaker, who said she hadn’t heard of the bill before Tuesday, wondered whether having emoji on license plates would make the actual letters harder to read.

“I’m not sure that a plate is the proper place for them,” she said, suggesting drivers get emoji bumper stickers instead.

But Hartford Deputy Police Chief Braedon Vail said he likes the emoji idea, comparing it to other specialty plates, like one that features stick figures and the words “building bright futures.”

“When running specialty plates through DMV, it is based on the numbers only, so there is no issue there,” he said in an email Tuesday.

He added that if the specialty license plates drum up revenue, he would hope the state puts that toward mental health treatment, which he calls a “major issue,” in Vermont.

Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said via email Tuesday that he wasn’t able to comment yet on the agency’s position toward the bill.

Cassidy, the White River Junction resident who suggested the bill, said he understands concerns from police about being able to read plates easily, especially about how the emoji could affect their automated license plate readers. He said that if the bill passes, he hopes the images would be non-reflective.

While the question of which emoji would be available is still up in the air — popular ones include the “heart eyes” and crying-laughing faces — Cassidy said that if he had his pick of any image, it would be a moose.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or at 603-727-3216.

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