By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
By a law enacted by the Nebraska Legislature, vehicle owners in the state are issued new license plates every six years. 2011 is the year for a new plate design.
That design was selected by a vote of the people a year ago. The plate includes a meadowlark and a spray of goldenrod, both yellow, with dark green lettering. The goldenrod and the meadowlark are the state flower and bird, respectively.
In 2009 the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) chose four finalists for the next license plate and announced that a public vote would decide the winner.
Due to a website, Collegehumor.com, that encouraged its viewers to vote for a plain grey plate, that plate received the most votes.
State officials at first denied that the website had stacked the vote for the grey plate, then recanted and chose the runner-up meadowlark design.
Public opinion hasn’t shown much support of the new plate.
In fact, in Chase County, “Very few people like them,” according to Virginia Lawson of the Treasurer’s Office. “People think there should be red on them.”
Lawson added that one customer who picked up his plates went so far as to say, “Well, I spray to get rid of that,” referring to the goldenrod.
Treasurer Cynthia Schoenberger said, “I really don’t care for the color.”
Betty Johnson, an administrator with the DMV in Lincoln, said the plates were chosen by a vote of the people.
Asked why the state can’t use the plates for longer than six years, Johnson said that was up to the Legislature. They used to be changed every three years, she noted.
Johnson speculates that “It helps get people into compliance. People may renew this year and then don’t for six years or more.”
Asked how much it costs the state to make the new plates, Johnson said the cost is passed back to the vehicle owner, so it doesn’t cost the state. Each plate costs $3.30 to make, using convict labor from the state penitentiary.
That is $6.60 per vehicle, which is part of the cost of the new plates.
If the Husker plate, which is red, is desired, that costs an additional $70 on top of the $6.60, Johnson said.
The cost of producing the details of the plates, such as the month stickers, for that six-year period, is also included in the $3.30 per plate cost.
Schoenberger said January and February are the biggest months for new license plate dispersal.
Plates of the past
This isn’t the first time the State of Nebraska license plates haven’t featured Husker red.
As a matter of fact, from 1903 to 1914, the individual vehicle owner made his own plates with metal numbers, which were then recorded by the Secretary of State.
Interesting color combinations have included:
1918—olive green on black;
1925—black on orange;
1927—white on lavender;
1933—dark blue on orange;
1934—white on dark green;
1948—dark blue on silver;
1952—black on goldenrod yellow (goldenrod flower added);
1954—goldenrod on black.
From 1956 to 1966 the slogan “The Beef State” was prominent on the plates. In 1969 “Cornhusker State” was substituted, and in 1976 “Bicentennial” replaced that.
Beginning in 1987 graphics were added and changed, such as a Nebraska rural and urban landscape, a windmill, Chimney Rock, Sandhill cranes and wetlands, Memorial Stadium and a covered wagon.
The State of Nebraska began issuing special Husker Spirit plates in January 1997 on behalf of the University of Nebraska. Plates were numbered in consecutive order and issued in order as applications were received.
In January 2000, Husker Spirit plates were issued with messages.