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License tag program gives arts a boost

I was happy to read The Tennessean’s front-age article on Jan. 8 about the importance of the specialty license plate program in helping to fund the arts in Tennessee.

As the story stated, a new arts plate will be available in early spring, the first in more than 10 years. I have already pre-ordered mine because I believe in the enormous positive impact the arts have on the citizens of our state.

Many people may not know that in Tennessee when you purchase certain specialty license plates, a portion of the proceeds supports the arts.

The specialty license plate program was created in the 1980s to provide a dedicated revenue source for arts and cultural activities in the state. A specialty license plate costs an additional $35 each year.

For the past eight years, I have proudly served as chairman of the Tennessee Arts Caucus, working with approximately 46 fellow House and Senate members. The purpose of the caucus is to promote and help facilitate valuable policy discussion about the importance of the arts as well as preserve the integrity of the specialty license plate program.

Specialty License Plate funding provides local arts programing for children and communities through the Tennessee Arts Commission, a state agency. Last year, more than $6.1 million was invested in nonprofit organizations, K-12 public schools and artists across the state.

For example, since 2011, the commission’s Student Ticket Subsidy Program has given the opportunity to more than 300,000 students to experience the arts by visiting a museum, seeing a play or attending a concert.

Last year, the commission made grants to more than 600 organizations across every region of the state, over half of which were schools. In my district, more than 15,000 public school children and organizations such as Sevier County Public Library, the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center and the Appalachian Ballet Company benefited from Specialty License Plate funding.

The arts are important to Tennessee. The arts impact communities in many positive ways, including quality of life, economic development and tourism, as well providing a more balanced education for our children. So let’s continue to support this vital program.

I hope you will consider choosing a specialty license plate. I would recommend the new arts plate. It not only looks great, but also 90 percent of the proceeds help fund arts in communities across the state.

The new plate will be available at your county clerk’s office sometime this spring. So join me: Support the arts in Tennessee with an arts plate.

State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, is chairman of the Arts Caucus and represents Blount and Sevier counties in Senate District 2, and chairs the Ethics Committee.

Written by: State Sen. Doug Overbey; The Tennessean

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