Nebraska lawmakers will consider proposals that would make it easier for veterans and service members to show their military pride on their vehicles and licenses.
A legislative committee will take up several bills Monday that would create new procedures for current and former members of the military.
In 2009, the Nebraska Legislature approved the creation of specialty license plates for nonprofit groups that have 500 or more advance orders. Since then, Creighton University and Union Pacific Railroad are the only entities to get specialty plates.
The Marine Corps in Nebraska came close to getting specialized license plates, but organizers realized anyone would be able to obtain the plates from the DMV after the Marines pre-ordered 500 plate applications, said Eric Williams, an Army veteran who has pushed for the license plate change. For this reason, Marine Corps supporters decided not to get the plates. Veterans groups want the DMV to verify a person is a veteran before issuing veteran plates.
"We don't want a non-member to abuse our emblem," Williams said.
Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Navy veteran, has proposed ending the 500-order threshold on specialty plates for veterans as well as those actively serving and their spouses. Janssen's bill would require the DMV to verify applicants are veteran or active service members.
The plates would show the emblems for different military service branches. These plates would be similar to plates that already exist for former prisoners' of war and those awarded Purple Hearts. The personalized plates would cost $40.
Because coordinating 500 or more orders can also be difficult, Bellevue Sen. Scott Price wants to lower the threshold to 150 for veterans' groups.
"Getting everybody on the same plate and the same time it is somewhat problematic," said Price, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
The bills could face opposition from Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who said he does not support specialized license plates because he thinks license plates are meant for identifying purposes only. Chambers has long argued against special plates, but the Legislature passed the law to allow nonprofit license plates while was gone from the Legislature due to term limits.
"I don't think license plates are to be billboards," Chambers said.
Dan Donovan, president of the Heartland of America chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, said he isn't interested in special veteran plates, but he understands why military organizations want to show their pride.
"I am proud to have served my country and to be a veteran," he said. "But I don't need specialized plates."
Donovan said he is much more interested in Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas' bill (LB93), which would allow veterans to add a voluntary veteran designation to their driver's license or state ID card. Dubas' office said the designation also could help law enforcement identify returning soldiers who might have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Donovan said the designation would come in handy on Veteran's Day when many companies offer discounts or free meals to veterans. Williams added that some stores also offer discounts to veterans.
Janssen, Price and Dubas are all members of the Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, which will hear the bill Monday.