Anyone who follows Nebraska politics is aware that we are facing a budget crisis and serious problems, including a failed correction system that is dangerous and inhumane to staff, prisoners, and families. These are serious matters that the people expect to be handled in a fair, transparent, and nonpartisan way. Yet what we saw in the 2017 legislative year was an extraordinary amount of legislators’ time wasted creating a license plate for one side of a controversial political issue while the other side of the issue created their own license plate without using any legislative time or taxpayer dollars.
The Catholic conference and other fetus-focused groups pushed a “Choose Life” license plate through the legislature with the help of legislators who think this is the kind of nonsense on which the state should be wasting resources. To clarify: almost any special interest group in Nebraska can get a special license plate by paying a fee and getting 250 people to pre-apply for the plates. However, the fetus groups found this too onerous and wanted special status with the state, so they proposed a bill to circumvent this process, making a “Choose Life” plate available at a reduced rate, with proceeds going to an organization that fights child abuse, implying that women who terminated pregnancy were child abusers.
The first sign that the the license plate would get special treatment by the legislative body was the committee hearing. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee made it clear that the voices of real Nebraskans were not important to them, as I stated earlier this year in my letter to the Lincoln Journal Star. They voted to push the bill forward in about two hours after treating opponents of the bill poorly.
Every bill that becomes law goes through three rounds of voting. If the bill is complex or controversial, it may go through a filibuster at one or more of the rounds. The filibuster process is important as tough legislation needs to be thoughtfully discussed before becoming law. The license plate bill, which should have been stopped by the committee because there is a way to get a political license plate without using the legislature, had three filibusters. That means all 49 senators were unable to work on the corrections system or discuss the budget for hours of debate, plus the hours they used to prepare for those debates. All this time was wasted because fetus-focused legislators and special interest groups didn’t want to use their own time and dollars. They instead wasted government time and dollars.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood and other women’s health focused groups worked on their own time and funding to use the existing process to create a “My Body, My Choice” license plate. Both plates are available through the DMV: https://www.nebraska.gov/dmv/splate/index.cgi .
You’ll notice that special interest groups who create license plates the right way are listed at the bottom. Nebraskans who want these plates are charged an extra $30 per plate than the legislature-created license plates.
That’s right, Nebraska–you were forced to pay for the birth of a new license plate that supports of only one side of a controversial issue. Then, people who want the controversial plate get a tax credit when they order it from the state government.
Oh, I should mention, while fetus focused legislators were working to advance the interests of fetuses, the same legislators were cutting funding to child welfare services, did not expand medicaid, and it was recently discovered that at least 50 children have been sexually abused while in state custody.