Friday, November 11, 2011

New Exit 39 northbound photos up - finally!

As you probably know already, improvements were made to the ramps from northbound Interstate 275 to Tampa International Airport as well as Kennedy Blvd., more known as Exit 39. Back in the old days, there were two exits: The exit for Kennedy Blvd., known as Exit 39A and the other exit for Tampa International Airport, known as Exit 39B. Moreover, Exit 39 is also known as FL 60, a cross-Florida state route from Clearwater Beach to Vero Beach.

After I got done taking the photos, organizing them into their proper place (both on my PC and on the web server), making the thumbnails (which are smaller versions of the linked photos so that you can see at a glance before clicking on the photo to see the full size version, very important for our dial-up visitors as while most of us have high speed broadband Internet service, there are still a few that have to rely on dial-up for a number of reasons) and editing the text of the web page still using Microsoft FrontPage, I checked and double-checked everything and I thought I published the revised page.

Not so.

Lately I was checking the Interstate 275 Florida site for anything that needed updating such as old links that need to be fixed and everything else, which is part of the maintenance step in web design. (Pinellas County public school students: Did you attend my web design presentation at a Great American Teach In at your school? You probably know the four steps in web design project management: Analysis, design, development and maintenance!) But something was missing when I looked at the first page of the Tampa version of the Interstate 275 virtual tour, which starts at Exit 39: Updated content reflecting the new ramp construction!

So, I had to do something right away. Everything was done, and I added one minor tidbit on the new ramp regarding motorists who were crossing the grassy strip in order to get from the northbound Interstate 275 mainline to the ramp for Tampa International Airport. In fact, the Florida DOT erected a series of white reflector posts to keep motorists from crossing over. However, these white reflector posts are what I think are a temporary fix; perhaps the engineers over at Florida DOT's District 7 headquarters on McKinley Drive in Tampa should consider a low-level chain link fence as a more permanent solution to keep motorists from crossing the grassy strip. There used to be a low-level chain link fence at Exit 17 (54 Av S) where the off ramp from southbound Interstate 275 and the southbound Interstate 275 mainline are separated for that same reason: Keep motorists from crossing over from the mainline to the ramp and vice versa.

With that one minor edit in mind, I went ahead and began publishing the full size pictures, the thumbnails, and the web page with the changes I made. The finished product is now online if you would like to take a peek.

After all, I have been very busy with my full time job thanks to staffing reductions and less staff having to take on more tasks. But - and - are still my works of art out there on the web. As such, I try very hard to keep everything updated as my time permits.

Still, keep checking back at frequently and often - content changes from time to time as construction projects are completed and new traffic patterns are established. In fact, why not bookmark as a favorite in your browser? That way, you can refer to us frequently and often!

Moving into the Tampa/St. Petersburg area from out of state? Read this!

From time to time while I am out and about on Interstate 275 and elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area I see vehicles with out of state license plates. Most of the time it is a tourist here to enjoy our beautiful weather compared to the brutal weather back home, especially during the winter months. (After all, in this day and age of a shattered economy, we depend on Florida’s number one industry to bring in much needed money and jobs!)

Before I go on further, I have featured this over at as a topic. I am making this as a blog entry here on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog as a public service announcement just to let our newcomers to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area from out of state of their obligations to obtain Florida driver licenses and registrations including auto tags, should they decide to live and work here as opposed to just visiting and taking part in what our great State of Florida has to offer.

What I am talking about specifically are people with out of state license plates that intend on living here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, whether it may be an apartment renter or a homeowner. Worse, I have seen people with out of state license plates that have enrolled their children in our public schools – schools that you, the Florida taxpayer, have to pay for as part of your property taxes.

If you are moving from out of state, what are your obligations as a new resident?

Being a tourist (or a “snowbird” if you’re one of those) is one thing. However, if you are coming to Florida for the purpose of working, buying a home or renting an apartment and calling Florida home or placing children in our public schools, your legal status without you even knowing about it has changed from a resident of your home state to a resident of the State of Florida!

Which leads us to the general residency rule in Florida. That means if you come to Florida with the intention of the following:

Taking a job with an employer in Florida
Placing children in a public school in Florida
Registering to vote
Registering for Homestead Exemption
Declaring Florida residency through filing a certificate of domicile with the Clerk of the Court

Florida law requires you to convert your out of state registration (license plates) and drivers license to a Florida registration and a Florida drivers license within ten (30) days of the day you performed any of the act(s) mentioned above that made you a Florida resident.

OK, I need to convert my out of state drivers license to a Florida drivers license. How do I do this?

The best way to get your Florida drivers license is to go to a Florida drivers license office, located strategically throughout the state. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a website where you can locate the drivers license office near you. In most cases all you need to do is to pass a vision test in order to convert your out of state license to a Florida license.

In addition, the Tax Collector's office (this is where you will get your license plates for your car) also performs drivers license related transactions, but be prepared to pay a small convenience fee. (From what I understand the function of driver license issuance will become the responsibility of the county Tax Collector as the State of Florida is closing the state-operated driver license offices; whether the convenience fee for getting your driver license at the Tax Collector after the state-operated driver license offices are closed will be abolished I am not sure yet).

Bringing the proper documentation to the driver license office is highly encouraged. In fact, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a specialty web site set up called that shows you what documentation you need.

But you are not done yet! If you own a vehicle with out of state license plates please read on.

I don't like to part with my out of state tag but I have to now that I am a Florida resident. How do I accomplish this?

To get your Florida plates go to your county's Tax Collector office. In Florida the Tax Collector of your Florida county also acts as an authorized agency for the issuance of vehicle registration, titling and license plates. Again, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a website where you can locate your county's tax collector office near you.

In the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, the Pinellas and Hillsborough Tax Collectors have informative web sites where you can find the office close to you. The Pinellas County Tax Collector’s web site is while the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s web site is Just be sure you go to the right Tax Collector office (that means if you live in St. Petersburg, you will deal with the Pinellas County Tax Collector, not Hillsborough).

Bring the following with you to the tax collector's office when you go for your Florida tags: Your Florida drivers license (very important; if you are going to the tax collector office you can accomplish both in the same visit), your out of state title, your out of state registration and proof of insurance. Speaking of proof of insurance, you will need to visit an agent of your insurance company to transfer your auto insurance to meet Florida’s insurance requirements; do this before you visit the Tax Collector for your registration to avoid disappointment.

It is a fact: If you get into an accident in Florida while you are covered by your out of state auto insurance policy (and you still have your out of state plates on your vehicle), if your insurer finds out that you are living in Florida as opposed to just visiting Florida then your insurer will do everything to deny your claim. Make no mistake; in order to fight any form of insurance fraud insurers have every reasonable right to investigate, especially if something questionable comes about when you file a claim.

However, nine times out of ten you may not have the title because you financed your vehicle when you bought it in the first place. You may either want to notify your out of state bank or finance company and they should be able to transfer the title to a Florida title for you; another alternative would be to refinance your vehicle with a bank or credit union (a credit union is preferred) in Florida and that should also transfer the title from your former state of residence to Florida for you as well. When you go to register your vehicle, let the tag/title clerk in the tax collector's office know and your vehicle registration should be a snap.

NOTE: Your out of state bank, finance company or credit union may charge you a small fee to transfer your out of state title to a Florida title. The Florida title will remain with your lienholder until it is released, mainly by paying off the loan on your vehicle.

If you have a personalized license plate from out of state that you would like to use in Florida (in other words, have the same personalization on your Florida plate) tell the tag/title clerk and a computer check will be done to see if you can use your same personalization on your Florida plate.

Additionally, Florida has a great smorgasbord of specialty license plates you can choose from if you're so inclined; the Pinellas County Tax Collector has a page on their website that shows you the many specialty license plates out there.

Now there are exceptions to the Florida general residency rule:

Florida Statutes provide for exceptions to the residency rule when it comes to obtaining Florida license plates and Florida drivers licenses. The most common exception is our brave men and women serving America in the military and are stationed in Florida pursuant to military orders, thanks to federal laws in place that forbid states from requiring military service members to obtain driver licenses and registrations upon arrival such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (50 USC 571), which was originally known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act enacted in 1940.

Active duty military from out of state do not have to obtain Florida license plates nor obtain a Florida drivers license while stationed in Florida. Neither does the immediate family of the service member as well. But be careful! Performing any of the acts listed below can require you or your family to obtain a Florida drivers license and/or Florida plates:

The service member accepts a second civilian job
The service member purchases a home in Florida and claims Homestead Exemption
The service member registers to vote in Florida
Any of the service member's family gets a job

Placement of a service member’s child in Florida public schools also does not require changing permanent residency to Florida as far as driver licenses and registration are concerned. However, school officials will want to see proof that you are in the military when you enroll your children (and to avoid the $50 tuition charge).

Another exception is college students from out of state attending any of Florida's universities or community colleges, such as the University of South Florida or Hillsborough Community College. College students from out of state do not have to obtain Florida license plates nor obtain a Florida drivers license incidental to attending college. (After all, out of state students have to pay out of state tuition!) But again, be careful as performing any of the acts listed below may require you to obtain a Florida drivers license and/or Florida plates:

The student pays in-state tuition for classes
The student accepts a job while going to school
The student places his or her children in Florida public schools (the K-12 kind, that is)
The student purchases a home in Florida and claims Homestead Exemption
The student registers to vote in Florida

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who continue to keep or insist on keeping their out of state license plates and driver license even though they now reside in Florida by virtue of placing their children in public school and/or accepting employment in Florida. Here in the Gandy area of St. Petersburg, this is getting to be an epidemic: I have seen a substantial number of out of state vehicles from states such as Illinois and Ohio (as examples) that are working here. (In fact, people from out of state living here in Florida more than likely have friends or relatives from their home state renew their vehicle registration on their behalf and send the renewal sticker or license plate to them, as most state laws forbid mailing a registration renewal out of state). People that move from out of state and do not transfer their driver license and registration to Florida when they are supposed to are costing the taxpayers of the State of Florida millions of dollars – money that is desperately needed due to dwindling tax revenue as a result of the recent real estate crisis.

Easy explanation: Needed widening improvements on Interstate 275 have to be put on hold due to lack of funding. As there is no money to proceed with the construction phase, gridlocks especially during the morning and evening commute get worse.

In fact, there used to be a tax that had to be paid by every out of state resident moving to Florida upon changing the vehicle registration from out of state that was declared unconstitutional by the courts. With this tax being unpopular, it got so bad that law enforcement – with the permission of the private company – was roaming private company parking lots looking for out of state plates. Despite the unconstitutionality of the tax, I am not sure if law enforcement continues to do this today or not.

So, if I continue to drive around with my out of state plates what can happen to me here in Florida?

First of all, you can be charged with violation of Florida State Statute 320.38 (related to vehicle registrations including license plates) and 322.031 (related to driver's licenses). This can happen if an officer stops you for a traffic violation and (for instance) sees you with a Tampa Bay area private company parking hang tag and your out of state license plates. These two offenses are not traffic infractions - it's a criminal misdemeanor offense! That means you will have to go to court and the possibility of a conviction on your criminal record, not to mention the embarrassment to your employer among other things.

You can also be charged with perjury (and be liable for back property taxes) if you are claiming homestead exemption on property you own in Florida. You can also be charged with perjury if you placed children in public school and told the school officials that you were a resident (after all, nonresidents who place their children in Florida public schools are subject to a $50 tuition fee). Same thing goes for college students from out of state who try to claim in-state tuition. Perjury is a very serious matter - it's a criminal third degree felony! (See Florida State Statute 92.525).

The bottom line is this: If you like visiting Florida, that’s great and we're glad to have you. However, if you decide to live, work, and/or put your children in our public schools and you are not in the military, be a good sport and pay Florida taxes such as vehicle registration – not the taxes from your home state.

Easiest explanation to the above paragraph: If you have (as an example) Illinois plates on your car and you live in one of the apartment complexes in the Gandy area of St. Petersburg and you are employed, you no longer need to be making contributions to the State of Illinois in the form of vehicle registration fees – instead, you need to be making contributions to the State of Florida in the form of vehicle registration fees (and these fees are one important source of revenue if we Floridians want better roads too).

With the reduced revenue going into the State of Florida’s coffers, our legislators in Tallahassee need to go back and look at the law that requires out of state residents intending to make Florida their home to get Florida driver’s licenses and registrations within 30 days. Perhaps increased enforcement is the key here, as enforcement of these laws have been lax for many years.

So, if you are visiting our great state we welcome you and we're glad to have you. However, if you are coming to our state (and our area) for the purpose of living here, be a good sport and pay Florida taxes such as obtaining a Florida driver’s license and obtaining Florida license plates for your vehicle – not to your former home state.

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