May 11, 2009 in Idaho

New Idaho specialty plates include ‘Gold Star’

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Accompanied by military and veterans’ officials and family members of Idaho military members killed in combat, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signs legislation into law Monday creating a special Gold Star Family license plate.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Idaho already had more than 70 options for special license plates, from breast cancer awareness to snow skier to Pearl Harbor survivor. Now it’s got four more, as Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill into law today creating a “Gold Star Family” license plate for families who’ve lost a member in combat.

“I’m not going to pick on any one of ‘em, but if there was ever an appropriate specialty license plate, this is it,” Otter said after he signed the bill. He said since he’s been governor, he’s spoken at 18 or 19 funerals of Idaho troops. “Most all were lost in either Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.

An array of veterans, their families, and representatives of veterans’ organizations turned out for Monday’s bill-signing, but they’re not the only ones celebrating a new special license plate.

This year’s Idaho Legislature also approved three others: One for Idaho Freemasons, or Shriners; one backing education for youngsters about earth science and lapidary, which refers to the art of cutting gem stones; and one to recognize commercial innovation.

Most of Idaho’s special license plates are fundraisers for various causes, from the state Fish and Game Department (elk and bluebird plates) to the Boy Scouts and Special Olympics plates. Others recognize and promote industries, from timber to agriculture; tout Idaho’s sporting attractions, from white water to snowmobiling; or display the driver’s affiliation, with everything from colleges or universities to the National Rifle Association.

There’s one for recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor; one for members of the House or Senate; one commemorating Idaho Basques; and one promoting “Historic Lewiston.”

The plethora of special plates has brought opposition from some lawmakers, who say there are too many; but other states have more. Florida has more than 100. Washington offers 45 special plates, including a Gold Star Parent plate, a square dancer plate, a lighthouse plate, and a “We love our pets” plate.

The tally of Idaho’s specialty plates includes some that aren’t available to everyone, from the House and Senate plates to handicap plates to exempt plates for government vehicles.

Unlike most Idaho specialty plates, the new Gold Star Family plate won’t carry the usual $35 initial fee and $25 renewal fee, on top of regular registration and license fees, if it’s purchased by the spouse or parent of the military member killed in action. Other family members who apply for the plates would pay the fees; they go to a state veterans support fund, to be used in part to administer the special plate program.

Idaho’s Division of Veterans Affairs proposed the new special plates; similar programs also are being proposed in other states. They’re for U.S. military members killed in combat in any war, not just the most recent conflicts.

Otter said, “We all have a debt to the people who will drive through this state with this license plate on their vehicle.”

This year, legislation to sharply limit new special license plate programs in Idaho passed the Senate, but it died without a vote in the House.


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