About a year ago I got pulled over for speeding going through New Braunfels in I-35 (clocked me at 86 while I was passing someone in a 70 zone) and even though I was totally polite the cop tacked on the no front plate charge as well -- $149!!
I moved here from SF where that ticket is like $25. Anyway, as others have mentioned I've heard the law is changing (has already changed?) to the point that it will become a much cheaper fix-it ticket, but I'm not sure about that.
Sorry about the tire experience OP -- have you considered getting VentureShield on your front bumper? Just got it myself and I'm very happy with the results.