- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A bill attempting to mimic the success of a popular reality television show by establishing a statewide contest for license plate design has begun winding its way through the House after advancing from the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and the bill’s sponsor, described the bill as an “American Idol” competition for Alaska license plates.

Under his bill, a competition would be held every four years, administered and juried by the Alaska State Council on the Arts and then voted on by Alaskans. Proceeds from sales of the winning plates would go toward the council and the artist whose design is selected.

During a Tuesday hearing on the bill, Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, interrupted Kreiss-Tomkins to ask about the premise of the bill. “Would you please, what’s this ‘American Idol?’ For the geriatric members of the committee,” asked the 82-year-old Lynn.

After the laughter in the room died down, Kreiss-Tomkins said the phenomenon of the “American Idol” show pitted singers against one another and allowed the nation to vote each week on which ones to keep.

Kreiss-Tomkins said after the meeting that he was trying to find intersections between state government and the daily life of Alaskans when he came up with the idea.

“How can we make license plates as mind-blowingly awesome as possible?” he said. “This is an attempt at an answer.”

Kreiss-Tomkins said he was also trying to find ways to help nonprofits find new ways of making money as the state struggles with its budget.

The bill mandates that each license plate would cost $50.

While the particulars of how Alaskans would cast their votes for newly designed license plates have not yet been determined, Alaska State Council on the Arts Executive Director Shannon Daut said the council welcomed the responsibility of managing the program in her written comments on the bill.

“Artists have the unique ability to translate the overwhelming power of place in Alaska to visual imagery, and this program would be a wonderful way to spotlight Alaska’s cultural and artistic riches, while also brightening up citizens’ experiences at the DMV,” Daut wrote.

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