Retired state legislators, ‘Legislator Emeritus’ vanity plates

You’d think that in today’s sour political climate that the New York’s retired state legislators would be wary of sporting vanity car license plates.

Well, that didn’t deter one from having Haile Rivera, a reader of The Bronx Chronicle tweet a photo of his license plate bearing the inscription “State Senate Emeritus 26 SSE.” The photo prompted media inquiries to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Senate and the Assembly.

IMG_20150210_102548

 

Haile Rivera, a Bronx political activist, snapped the photo at a gas station on East Tremont Avenue in the Van Nest section of the Bronx on Tuesday morning.

FullSizeRender

Until Rivera tweeted that pix, relatively few voters knew that retired State Senators and Assembly Members with 30 or more years of legislative service are eligible for “Legislator Emeritus” vanity license plates.

Stacy Wood, a DMV spokesperson said, “any State Senator who has served for 30 or more years in the State Senate can apply for an Emeritus license plate.” Ms. Wood assured me that the Emeritus plate “is the same as any other custom plate that has certain qualification requirements (e.g., Veteran) and the applicant pays all the appropriate license plate fees.”

While the plates don’t carry any special privileges or benefits, they are seen by ex-legislators as mementos of their long public service.

Former NY State Senate Minority Leader Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn), a 31-year incumbent, obtained his Emeritus license plate in recent years. Mr. Connor said that he learned about the program during a Senate Pilots reunion dinner conversation with Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) in 2009. “Breslin said I should look into the license plate program that the Senate had recently authorized.”

“I didn’t apply for the Emeritus license plate until after I replaced my car which was totaled in the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy,” said Connor.

Connor, served in the State Senate from 1978 until 2008, believes that there are “only a small handful of such plates.” He recalls that Republican Senators Ronald Stafford and Roy M. Goodman enjoyed “Senator Emeritus” status. Stafford passed away in 2005 and Goodman died at age 84 in June 2014.

DMV spokesperson Ms. Wood was unable to provide a list of the retired state legislators with the “Senator Emeritus” license plates. She cited the Federal Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) as the reason she was unable to provide information regarding this license plate. As of press time, spokespersons from neither the State Senate nor the Assembly had responded to inquiries.

Connor speculated that State Senate Emeritus 26 SSE belonged to ex-Senator Goodman and the car may have been driven by a relative.

When asked his opinion of the Legislator Emeritus program, Haile Rivera said, “I think it’s a way of saying ‘thank you’ for your service.”

“As long as they aren’t indicted for stealing money from people or nonprofits, retired legislators deserve the Emeritus plate,” said Mr. Rivera.

Michael Benjamin is the managing editor of The Bronx Chronicle and a former Bronx state legislator.