House approves numerous license plates but rejects animal plate

Thursday, March 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a rare and somewhat boisterous Tuesday night session, Missouri House members approved more than a dozen specialty license plates for everyone from coroners to square dancers.

But representatives drew the line at creation of the Animal Friendly License Plate, defeating the proposal after some mocking and serious criticism.

The night session, the first of the year, was scheduled to consider dozens of supposedly non-controversial bills before lawmakers leave Thursday for their spring break. The House got to less than a third of the bills, talking almost exclusively about license plates.

Missouri already has 120 different specialty license plates, many for military veterans, college supporters or fraternal groups.

With term limits preventing nearly half the House members from seeking re-election, many viewed this year as their last chance to enact a specialty plate for their favorite constituencies.

"We already have a number of license plates on the road," said Rep. Patrick O'Connor, D-Hazelwood, chairman of the Motor Vehicle and Traffic Regulations Committee.

"I don't see any reason as chairman to stop more of them."

So representatives passed bills allowing special vehicle plates for members of the Missouri Elks Association, Missouri 4-H, Missouri Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, and Missouri Federation of Square and Round Dancers Clubs, to name a few.

All the bills now go to the Senate.

House debate was sprinkled with corny questions about what people would put on their special plates (CLOVER or HHHH for 4-H?) and some representatives made farm animal noises when the turn came for Animal Friendly License Plate.

House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway, sponsor of separate legislation prohibiting sex between people and animals, wondered if the special license plates might be misinterpreted

"I'd hate to see this license plate get perverted by those who are a little too animal friendly," said Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.

Sponsoring Rep. Bill Skaggs, D-Kansas City, tried to steer the debate straight, saying that contributions required to get the plates could go to the Agriculture Department to help spay and neuter animals.

He pledged to add those provisions if the bill made it to the Senate and to change the plate's title to the Missouri Humane Association License Plate.

But the bill failed on a 77-69 vote -- five votes short of what is needed for House passage.


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