Nebraska Legislature Passes Bill to Allow Drivers to Purchase Pro-Life License Plates

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 1, 2017   |   7:07PM   |   Omaha, Nebraska

Nebraska state Senators put their support behind an effort to allow pro-life license plates in the state on Tuesday.

The Fremont Tribune reports the state Senate voted 37-7 to advance the bill allowing the “Choose Life” license plate designs to be offered through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bill must pass two more votes before it is finally approved, according to the report.

The plates would cost $5 more than a standard Nebraska license plate, and the proceeds would be given to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, according to the report.

The pro-life license plates have been contentious in Nebraska for years. Opponents have threatened to filibuster the bill before future votes, arguing that the plates are “state-sanctioned speech” and would face legal challenges, the report states.

“Are these license plates that don’t change access to abortion worth the dollars that it would cost the state in legal battles?” state Sen. Lynne Walz asked.

Here’s more from the report:

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said his voting record shows his opposition to abortion, but he couldn’t support using state-issued license plates for political speech.

“What’s next?” Krist asked. “Pro-choice? I like my Buick? I’m pro-death penalty? I like to kill people?”

The Legislature already cleared the way for political messaging when Sen. Ernie Chambers, a long-time opponent of specialty plates, introduced the mountain lion conservation plates last year, said Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft.

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“You fought for a mountain lion,” Brasch said. “I fight for unborn children.”

Opponents also argued the license plate supporters should use another route to promote the effort. Groups also can apply for specialty license plates by paying for at least 250 applications in advance and presenting a list of at least 250 people who will pay a $70 annual renewal fee for the plates, according to the report.

Choose Life plates currently are available in about 30 states, according to the organization that promotes the effort.

Last spring, North Carolina won a long court battle when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that its “Choose Life” license plates, approved by the legislature in 2011, are constitutional.

The battle over the North Carolina pro-life plates went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, LifeNews reported. The high court ordered the 4th Circuit Court, which previously struck down the law, to reconsider the case in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in another license plate case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The “Choose Life” organization reports the license plates have raised millions of dollars to help pregnant and parenting families and adoptions. In the Midwest, Indiana raised $650,000, and Ohio raised more than $500,000. Both states have more than 25,000 vehicles with “Choose Life” plates, according to the organization.