Keeping Wyo number plates recognisable

CHEYENNE -- The Legislature is trying to hold the line on special number plates.

To that end, some House members showed no little courage last week when they opposed and eventually killed a bill to allow special plates for breast cancer awareness and prevention.

Breast cancer is such a sensitive, emotional issue.

As one supporter of the bill said, the disease has affected virtually every family in the state.

The $100 cost of the special number plates would have gone to the Department of Health for cancer control programs. A good cause.

Most legislators want to keep Wyoming's bucking horse number plates uncluttered and recognizable.

Rep. Del McOmie, R-Lander, led the opposition to House Bill 197. He questioned whether the proposal would lead to a proliferation of specialty number plates for different diseases.

He questioned if prostate cancer or cool-rectal number plates would be next.

"Where does this stop?" McOmie asked.

Rep. Owen Petersen, R-Mountain View, said he objected to turning Wyoming's number plates into a "mini-billboard."

If the proliferation of special number plates continues, it won't be long, he said, before people won't be able to recognize number plates from other states.

Rep. Keith Gingery , R-Jackson, also was opposed. He noted the array of Montana number plates.

"They have no unity," Gingery said.

Rep. Ed Buchanan, R-Torrington, a sponsor of the bill, said the number plates would remain the same. The special number plates for breast cancer would have a pink ribbon in one corner.

He noted specialty plates for other groups.

"I think it's a worthy cause,'" he said.

Rep. Seth Carson, D-Laramie, the chief sponsor, said the special breast cancer number plate could remind people to get checked for the disease.

A breast cancer support group watched this debate from the balcony. Rep. Jim Byrd, D-Cheyenne, introduced the visitors.

"I think the horse is already out of the barn," Byrd said.

It was. The vote was 26-34.against the bill

The next bill up in the House adds six different logos to the existing veterans' number plate to designate branch of service, for example. The $50 fee goes to the Wyoming Veterans' Commission.

McOmie emphasized the veterans number plate already exists and the bill would only make an insignia change. The bill passed and goes to the House.

Wyoming already has a special gold University of Wyoming number plate, as well as plates or logos for Pearl Harbor veterans, amateur radio operators, former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, disabled veterans, Wyoming National Guard members, emergency medical technicians and firefighters, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The number of special number plates can get out of control. According to a 2007 study by the National Council of State Legislatures, Maryland tops the charts with more than 700 special number plates.

In North Carolina, two years ago, 14 bills were introduced to allow special number plates to be produced for organizations ranging from Hospice Care Workers to the National Rifle Association.

The "Choose Life" special plate caused controversy, including a couple of lawsuits, in some of the 16 states that offer it. Proceeds from the sale of the plate go to encourage adoption for women with unplanned pregnancies.

Arizona has a pet friendly specialty plate that raises money to pay for spaying and neutering animals.

Some state officials, meanwhile, complain about the expense of producing specialty plates that aren't in high demand.

The whale number plate in Massachusetts has been in low demand, in recent years, for example. Same with the environmental plate in Illinois.

Also law enforcement officials say that the more variation in a state plate, the more difficult it is to recognize the state that issued the number plate.

Given the NCSL study, Wyoming is smart to limit the number of specialty number plates.

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