By DANA HEUPEL
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
SPRINGFIELD -- Some private universities in adjacent states could have their own specialty Illinois license plates under legislation headed for the governor's desk.
The Illinois Senate approved a bill Wednesday to allow private universities in contiguous states with more than 10,000 alumni in Illinois to request the plates. Money from the specialty plates would go for scholarships for Illinois students who attend those universities.
Senate Bill 169 passed on a 37-18 vote, with Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, among those voting against it.
Dillard said he wanted to know how Illinois college presidents would feel about the legislation.
"I'd like to hear from the president of DePaul or Loyola what they think about having Marquette license plates running around the streets of Chicagoland," he said. Marquette is in Milwaukee.
"I think this may end up hurting Illinois private universities -- it may hurt the University of Illinois -- and we're here at the 11th hour of the session, and I certainly have not had a lot of input about this," Dillard said.
"We are only talking about a handful of universities in this state that have that many alumni," said Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "If they want to spend extra dollars and buy a license plate to have pride in their university and help an Illinois resident have a scholarship to go to the university, why not?"
Specialty plates already exist for Illinois universities and colleges. Tom Hardy, spokesman for the University of Illinois, said that institution was neutral on the bill.
Dillard said the legislation also would benefit the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and wondered if it could encourage Illinois students to attend out-of-state schools.
"Studies will show you that if you are educated out of Illinois, you are more likely to remain out of Illinois upon graduation," he said, adding that he would like to see other states offer specialty plates for private schools in Illinois.
Public institutions in the contiguous states could want the same treatment, Dillard said.
"Everything in the legislature is incremental," he said, "so I look for the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badger fans to be pressuring state legislators for their license plates in the Land of Lincoln in the near future."
The Illinois specialty plates would cost motorists $40 on top of the usual $78 fee in the first year, and an additional $27 for each renewal. For the initial plates, $25 would go to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for scholarships to those universities, and $15 to the secretary of state's office for administrative costs in producing the plates. For renewals, $25 would go for scholarships and $2 would go to the secretary of state.
The legislation also would create junior-golf specialty plates for the Illinois Professional Golfers Association Foundation. For the initial plates, $25 of the $40 additional cost would go toward grants for junior golfers and $15 would go to the secretary of state. For renewals, $38 would go for the grants and $2 would go to the secretary of state.
Central Illinois Sens. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria; Bill Brady, R-Bloomington; and Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa; also cast no votes. Sens. Deanna Demuzio, D-Carlinville, John Sullivan, D-Rushville, and Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, supported the bill, and Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, did not vote.
The legislation now goes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his signature or veto.
Laura Camper of the State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. Dana Heupel can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or email@example.com.