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License plates

A sample "Choose Life" Nebraska license plate. An exact design must still be adopted by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

He liked the bill so much, he signed it more than once.

Gov. Pete Ricketts endorsed several copies of a bill authorizing "Choose Life" license plates in Nebraska on Wednesday, distributing them to anti-abortion activists and elected officials during a ceremony at the Capitol.

"For pro-life Nebraskans, this is a big day," Ricketts said.

He said the measure is the first "pro-life" legislation passed in Nebraska since 2011, calling it a small step, but important.

The plates will be available in 2018. An exact design hasn't been chosen.

Lawmakers approved the plates Monday on a 35-5 vote. The bill (LB46), sponsored by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, includes a $5 application fee to benefit the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Opponents of the bill, including Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, said it amounts to state-sponsored political speech.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has announced plans to develop its own plates, which will read "My Body, My Choice." The organization is working to gather the 250 pre-orders required for nonprofits to have plates approved by the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.

As of last week, Planned Parenthood said it had reached about 50 percent of that goal. 

Ricketts said Nebraska has a "history and a legacy in our state of protecting innocent life."

Bob Blank, president of Choose Life Nebraska, said he expects the "Choose Life" plates to become the state's most popular specialty license plates.

"We'll see if that comes true, but we have a lot of interest," Blank said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachami.

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Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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