By Seth Olson
Nebraska News Service
Military veterans, along with some motorists in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties, could all see license plate changes by next year.
A trio of bills relating to potential license plate modifications was presented to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee during a hearing Jan. 19 at the Capitol.
LB732, introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, would allow military reservists to be eligible for Military Honor Plates. Accordingly, the proposed legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to design reservist plates.
The plate designs would honor persons who have served or are serving in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve, Navy, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard, Coast Guard Reserve, Air Force, Air Force Reserve or National Guard.
Under this bill, there would be 11 designs, opposed to the original six, one for each of the armed forces reflecting its official emblem, official seal or other official image. The bill would expand those eligible to receive Military Honor Plates and have the veteran designation on their driver license/ID card to those in the reserves.
In 2014, there were 6,494 active reservists in Nebraska. Although the number of retired reservists is not known, it is estimated in an additional 600 sets of Military Honor Plates would be sold. The plates could be either numerical or message plates.
Applicants for numerical plates must pay an annual $5 fee, which is credited to the Nebraska Veteran Cemetery System Operation Fund (NVCSO). Persons purchasing message plates must pay an annual $40 plate fee of which 75 percent would be deposited in the cemetery fund and 25 percent to the Department of Motor Vehicles cash fund.
Persons eligible for military plates would have to register with the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to be approved to purchase the plates.
Meanwhile, LB880 introduced by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha, would similarly create reservist license plates, but the bill would also allow people to be listed as veterans on their drivers’ licenses even if their only active duty service was for training.
Gregory Holloway, a veteran from Bee, testifying at the hearing for LB732 and against LB880, expressed concern about consistency in statutes.
Holloway, who grew up in Harvard, is a commander for Disabled American Veterans in Nebraska. Holloway said that if LB880 is passed, there would be inconsistent definitions of a veteran, which would be a dishonor to those who have served or are serving the country on active duty.
Another license plate bill brought to the committee Tuesday afternoon was LB811, sponsored by Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft. It would alter provisions relating to counties’ use of alphanumeric and county number system license plates.
The three counties—Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy—would eliminate the optional choice of county number plates and switch to only alphanumeric plates for farm trucks and farm trailers. LB811 would eliminate all county numbered license plates in those three most populous counties, repealing current law requiring farm trucks and farm trailers to be registered by the county number system.
Alphanumeric license plates, unlike county number plates, can be exchanged between counties so fewer plates would be wasted. The savings cost figures to be substantial but is yet to be determined.
“This is purely a cost savings bill so there should be no controversy moving forward,” Brasch said.
The bills will be voted on by the Transportation and Telecommunications in the coming weeks.