Katie Bernard
KU Statehouse Wire Service
New, and possibly controversial, license plates could be available in Kansas after the Senate endorsed a bill March 26 that creates specialty license plates supporting Special Olympics, the City of Wichita, veterans of recent wars and one that reads “Choose Life.”
House Bill 2599 says that revenue from the City of Wichita and Special Olympics plates will benefit the organizations which named them. The veterans and choose life plates, on the other hand, are not sponsored by any organization. Revenue from those plates will be deposited into the Kansas Highway Fund.
Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, said he was concerned the “Choose Life” plate was inappropriate for the state government to establish as it appears to be an anti-abortion statement.
“I’m only concerned about opening the door in this particular case to one (license plate) in particular, that was the choose life option, I believe, madam chair, that is state-sanctioned political speech,” Haley said.
Senator Peterson (R-Wichita), however, said these plates have been used by other states and do not necessarily implicate abortion issues but could also be considered general endorsement of protecting life as a whole.
This bill came after a similar bill, which created license plates for veterans of the Korean War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, failed to move past a Senate committee last year because of high costs. Those same license plates were included in this year’s bill alongside additional plates. However, technology allowing digital printing of the plates propelled the bill through committee this year by substantially lowering the cost, Peterson said.
“Digital printing will save our treasurer tons of money and make development much cheaper,” he said.
The department of revenue estimates that production of the plates would cost the state $4,405 but could generate as much as $19,625 in revenue, depending on sales.
On Monday, the Senate also endorsed House Bill 2511, which extends commercial drivers’ license renewal periods from four years to five years, and House Bill 2606, which establishes an electronic system for license renewal.
The online renewal system would be open only to those between the ages of 21 and 50, it would require users to show proof of a recent visit to the optometrist.
Peterson said the bill had strong support from the optometrist association because of beliefs it would boost yearly eye exams.
Senate is expected to take final action on the bills later this week.
Katie Bernard is a University of Kansas junior studying journalism from Overland Park.