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Eye On Boise

Senate panel OK’s special license plate designed to recognize volunteer EMTs, not raise funds

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll proposed a different kind of specialty license plate bill today – one not designed to raise money for a particular program or cause, but instead to provide recognition and encouragement to Idaho’s volunteer Emergency Medical Services providers. Half of Idaho’s EMS providers are volunteers, Nuxoll told the Senate Transportation Committee, and the number of volunteers has dropped from 2,688 in 2002 to 2,135 in 2012. At meetings around the state, recognition in their communities  - like something they could put on their cars – was something volunteer EMS workers suggested as a spur for recruiting and retention.

“We have these volunteers, and we need to help support them,” Nuxoll said. “I know the (specialty) license plates are controversial. They are to me, too. But if there’s ever a good cause, this is one time.”

Nuxoll’s bill was backed by Bill Spencer, who’s been with Syringa Hospital Ambulance in Grangeville for 34 years. Spencer said, “We’re finding it more and more difficult in rural EMS … to recruit and retain EMS people.” He said volunteers will appreciate both the recognition they get by running the special plate, and the ability to signal authorities quickly as to who they are when they arrive at an accident scene. “All of those things will definitely get us on the right track and help us promote rural EMS and volunteerism throughout rural Idaho,” he said.

People would have to prove they’re volunteer EMS workers, and prove it again each time they renew, to get the special plate; they’d pay a one-time fee of $13 above registration fees to cover the cost of the plate, but wouldn’t have to pay that fee again with renewals. The Emergency Medical Services Fund would cover the $3,000 programming cost at ITD to set up the new plate.

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, moved to kill the bill, saying, “Every single one of the license plate bills that we have are for good causes, and the list is growing longer and longer. I’ve made a commitment myself that I would never vote for another license plate bill, and I am simply honoring my commitment to do that.” But his motion failed, with just Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, joining him in backing it. The committee then approved the bill, SB 1082, sending it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it “do pass.”

Other special Idaho license plates tout everything from Corvette ownership to mountain biking to the Special Olympics. Earlier today, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of SB 1083, a bill from Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, saying that people who buy specialty plates that then are discontinued for lack of adequate sales will be allowed to keep them for up to seven years. Annual fees they pay after the plate program is discontinued would go into the state highway account; that bill now moves to the House.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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