MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama motorists will soon have a choice in standard license plates: the ''Stars Fell on Alabama'' tag or a new ''God Bless America'' tag.
The Alabama Senate voted 34-0 Monday night to approve legislation creating the "God Bless America" tag. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, passed the House 91-1 in February and now goes to the governor for signing into law.
Hurst said he hopes the slogan on the tags will instill pride and patriotism in Alabama residents.
"I hope it will put unity back in the people," Hurst said.
Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, guided the bill through the Senate in the closing hours of the regular session. He predicted the "God Bless America" tag will be popular because it will sell for the same price as the "Stars Fell on Alabama" tag.
Currently, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and Iowa have "God Bless America" tags, but they are specialty tags that require an extra payment - much like Alabama's university tags do. The Alabama "God Bless America" tag would not carry an extra charge.
The state Revenue Department hopes to have the tags ready by Oct. 1, revenue officials said recently.
Someone who gets a "God Bless America" tag during their regular tag renewal month won't pay any extra. If any of the 3 million motorists with "Stars Fell on Alabama" tags want to trade them in early and get a "God Bless America" tag, they will have to pay a $1.25 issuance fee.
The tag won't be the first in Alabama to carry the words "God Bless America." The specialty tag created for former prisoners of war in 1980 bears those words, but that tag is not available to the general public.
"God Bless America" was put on the tag because Alabama's most famous POW, former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton of Mobile, uttered the words when he was freed from a North Vietnamese prison and landed at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1973.
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