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Illinois SoS Looking to Bring On Advertising Partners

Vehicle registration renewal reminders sent by mail are something that vehicle owner’s have come to expect from their motor vehicle state department. For many counties and states nationwide, sending one is more complicated than just slapping a stamp on an envelope. While a stamp an envelope may only cost a few cents, when multiplied by millions of vehicles for which a renewal reminder would be required, you get a pretty hefty bill. While allocation of funds from collected taxes are what traditionally support these programs, private parties may be able to help funds processes like this with creative solutions.

Budget Constraints Lead to Discontinued Renewal Reminders

Illinois, like many other states, has experienced budget deficits in many areas of government over the years. In September 2015, Senator of the State (SoS), Jesse White, announced that they would be suspending the mailing service of vehicle registration renewal reminders. With a state budget not in place at the time for the 2016 Fiscal year, the SoS was looking to save over $5 million over the course of 12 months. The decision to discount renewal reminders was crucial in assuring that the department could continue to mail out other more important documents such as the actual renewal stickers, titles, and more.

The department had already established an electronic reminder system which would send renewal reminders by email to vehicle owners who signed up for this via A registration ID and PIN are required which, if not already known, can be obtained by calling the Public Inquiry Division at 800-252-8980. More than 2.5 million Illinois vehicle owners have opted for email reminders with a good portion of those individuals signing up after the 2015 announcement of the discontinuation of mailed notices. Even once budget issues are resolved, many would agree that the future of this particular facet is best migrated to the online world. This includes the ability to renew the registration online which can be done here by Illinois residents.

 A Debatable Solution

The halted renewal reminders did not last long. Senator White announced the reinstatement of the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices in August 2016. That came with a separate announcement that legislation was being drafted to allow the Secretary of State office to sell advertising space on the renewal notices. Essentially, the department would generate revenue from private parties interested in adverting their products or services via ads printed on the registration renewal notices themselves.

Drafting a piece of legislation is not done in a day. House Bill 394 wasn’t introduced by Secretary of State Jesse White until January 2017, almost 5 months after the initial announcement. Per this bill, it would be legal to solicit and accept sponsorship for publications printed and distributed by the Secretary’s office. However, there are certain restrictions that limit who can put their logo, tagline, or add on mailings.

  • The legislation does not allow any entity licensed by the SoS to feature an advertisement in the postcards.
  • Companies related to pharmaceuticals, medical marijuana and alcohol are not allowed to advertise on SoS publications.
  • Candidates for the elective office and campaign committees are also not allowed to place advertisements featured in the mailings.

Apart from these restrictions, the SoS still has the authority to disapprove any company that may wish to feature an advertisement. The SoS will also have the discretion to control the design and content of the ads that would appear on vehicle registration renewal reminders.

While there has not been much debate on the matter (yet), obvious concerns exist. Allowing private parties to pay for advertising may lead to unintended influence in other areas directly within the Secretary of State office or other state departments. If passed, it will be important for the State department to maintain a close watch of the progress of the program to assure that any unforeseen consequences don’t spiral out of control. At the end of the day though, the goal is to take the burden off the tax payer and vehicle owner’s in particular. While one of solutions may be to one day move to all digital notifications, aka email reminders, the fact remains that many Illinois residents depend on their mailed renewal reminders to avoid late renewal and possible tickets. The SoS continues to stress the convenience of signing up for email reminders.

No post is complete on this day without the quintessential HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY announcement.

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