May 12, 2009 in Idaho

New plates honor combat victims

Special fees waived for spouses, parents
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – Idaho already had more than 70 special license plates, touting interests as varied as breast cancer awareness and skiing. Now it has four more.

Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill into law Monday creating a “Gold Star Family” license plate for families who’ve lost a member in military combat.

“I’m not going to pick on any one of them, but if there was ever an appropriate specialty license plate, this is it,” Otter said.

Since Otter has been governor, he’s spoken at nearly 20 funerals of Idaho service members, he said. “Most all were lost in either Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.

This year’s Legislature also approved a specialty plate for Idaho Freemasons, or Shriners; one backing education for youngsters about earth science and lapidary, the art of cutting gem stones; and one to recognize commercial innovation.

Most of Idaho’s special plates are fundraisers for various causes, including the state Fish and Game Department (elk and bluebird plates), the Boy Scouts and Special Olympics. Others recognize and promote industries, including timber and agriculture; tout Idaho’s sporting attractions, such as whitewater and snowmobiling; or display the driver’s affiliation, such as with universities or 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 abundance of special plates has brought opposition from some lawmakers, who say there are too many. Other states have more, though; 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.

Some of Idaho’s plates aren’t available to everyone, including the House and Senate plates and exempt plates for government vehicles.

Unlike most Idaho specialty plates, the 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, which 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 plates; similar programs are being proposed in other states. They’re for U.S. military members killed in combat in any war.

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

Legislation to sharply limit new special license plate programs in Idaho passed the Senate this year but died without a vote in the House.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/boise.


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