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Forgotten plates

Seven thousand sets of specialty license plates fill six filing cabinets at the Lancaster County Department of Motor Vehicles.

In the future, you may be seeing sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep and ornate box turtles on Nebraska license plates.

And you may be able to support research for childhood cancer and prostate cancer through your selection of plates. 

Senators advanced a bill Tuesday to create more specialty plates and change how money raised from the plates is distributed.

The bill (LB356) would also allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to eliminate certain specialty plates if not enough applications for the plates are received. Plates could be discontinued if there are not more than 250 of a specific type for two consecutive years, beginning the year after the initial issuance of the plates.

Gold Star, Purple Heart, Ex-POW, Pearl Harbor Survivor and Disabled American Veteran plates would be exempt from the provision.

Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk introduced the original bill, which was amended and had other bills added to it. As amended it would change how money raised for pediatric cancer research plates is distributed, and bring uniformity to license plate provisions, said Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Chairman Curt Friesen of Henderson. 

The bill would lower the cost of the application fee for the pediatric cancer research plate, called the Sammy's Superheroes plate, to $40 for a message plate, $30 of which would go to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for research, and $5 for an alphanumeric plate, which all would go to research.

For wildlife plates, proceeds from the $5 alphanumeric plate and $30 from the message plate would be distributed to the Wildlife Conservation Fund instead of the Game and Parks Education Fund, while $10 of the message plate fee would go to the Department of Motor Vehicles cash fund.

The same would be true of the prostate cancer plate, with money going to research and the motor vehicle cash fund. 

The bill would also result in a 70-30% split between the highway trust fund and motor vehicle cash fund for standard message plates ($40), Husker spirit plates ($70), and organizational plates ($70). 

Currently, there is no application fee for breast cancer alphanumeric plates, and the bill would add a $5 fee and designate the UNMC breast cancer navigator program as the beneficiary. It would distribute $10 from the message plate fee to the motor vehicle cash fund.

All new plate applications and distribution of plates would be effective Jan. 1, 2021. Specialty and organizational license plate information is available from the Department of Motor Vehicles at www.nebraska.gov/dmv/splate/index.cgi.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who usually has something to say about specialty license plates, served notice that he would at some time ask for changes to how money is used from application fees for the mountain lion conservation plates. 

He said he thought the money would be used to educate children and others about mountain lions and conservation. Instead, he said, the Game and Parks Commission has authorized hunting seasons for the mountain lion, and money from the plate was used, in part, for a speaker on bird conservation. 

He wants to have the ways the money is spent documented, he said.

"I would intend to divert it to a different fund where there is more accountability, no slush funding," he said. 

LB356 advanced to a second round of debate on a 37-0 vote. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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