Sen. Mike Fasano was surprised. As he looked at the SUV parked at a wedding recently, the Senate's transporation budget chief noticed a vanity license plate that simply said "Senate President." Fasano knew it didn't belong to Senate President Jeff Atwater, who drives a blue Honda Odyssey minivan. So Fasano checked around and found out the specialty plate belonged to former Senate President Tom Lee.
Fasano was even more surprised to find out that, contrary to his suspicions, such plates for former House Speakers and Senate Presidents became legal thanks to a little-noticed provision slipped into a transportation bill in the House in 2006, Lee's last year in the Legislature.
"Someone had to have told the leaders, 'Hey, you can get a specialty plate for the rest of your life,' " Fasano said.
Now, Fasano wants to take Lee's plate away as well as any other license plate that suggests someone is an office holder when s/he isn't. Fasano said he'll try to change the statute to ban such vanity plates next legislative session.
"Tom Lee is a good friend. He was a good senate president," said Fasano. "But this isn't about him. When you are termed out, you have left the system. You leave. You don’t get preferential treatment you don’t get specialty license plates. It sends the wrong message."
Lee couldn't be reached.