Mainers will begin exchanging the chickadee for the pine tree and star on their license plates beginning in 2025 if LD 1965, an after-deadline bill sponsored by Transportation Committee House Chair Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor), becomes law.
“We’ve had that chickadee forever,” Williams said in a brief interview. “I personally like that design,” she said of the new plate, modeled on the state flag that flew from 1901-09 before being replaced with the current flag. It features a scythe-wielding farmer and a mariner leaning on an anchor, both male.
In fact, the chickadee came out in 1999, replacing a much-reviled lobster design installed by the Legislature in the 1980s, overriding the Secretary of State’s traditional authority.
The current secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, requested Williams’ bill, and said she, too, likes the earlier state flag iconography. “We’ve seen that design popping up all over the state, it’s on T-shirts and mugs,” she said. “We see it everywhere, and we love this design.”
She acknowledged, however, that lawmakers now have the final say, while Williams noted, “not everyone likes it, and some really prefer something else.”
Supporters and naysayers will have the opportunity to sound off when the bill has its hearing tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 25, as lawmakers begin their final push toward adjournment.
Aside from the design, other aspects of the new plates appear set. Although the bill text specifies the plate can be produced at the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren, where replacement plates are now stamped, Bellows doesn’t believe the presses can handle a massive new issue of 1.5 million plates. A separate contract is likely.
Plates will be issued through 2026 as registrations expire.
As for money, it’s already in hand. Bellows said her office has sufficient funds, and the “current services” budget enacted April 1 allows her to make the necessary transfers.
Douglas Rooks has been covering the State House for the Phoenix since 2019.