Nebraska lawmakers flooded with requests for special wildlife plates

Source: By Grant Schulte, Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019

Nebraska motorists who want to support, for example, ornate box turtles could donate to that cause with a new license plate, if some state lawmakers have their way.

Members of a legislative committee heard pitches yesterday for nearly a dozen new specialty plates, adding to the growing number approved in recent years.

“I think we just set the record for the number of license plate bills heard in one day,” said state Sen. Curt Friesen (R), chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

The number of new plates surged after the surprising success of Nebraska’s mountain lion conservation plates, which have generated $225,000 for youth wildlife education — far more than expected — since they were created in 2016.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers (I) previously blocked all efforts by lawmakers to approve specialty plates on the grounds that they detracted from the purpose of helping law enforcement identify vehicles.

But he changed his mind after former state Sen. Charlie Janssen (R) suggested in 2014 that lawmakers create a mountain lion license plate, honoring an animal Chambers has tried to protect from hunters.

Some new proposals would create special plates for animals such as sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, cutthroat trout and ornate box turtles.

Others would honor veterans, highlight the importance of spaying and neutering pets, and help fund pediatric cancer research.

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) said a bill recognizing ornate box turtles would generate money for state officials to preserve their natural prairie habitats. The turtle is one of just two that are native to Nebraska.

“A new plate for the ornate box turtle is sure to be both beautiful and foster interest in Nebraska as a tourist destination,” she said.