LINCOLN — A bill to create a specialty license plate for the protection of mountain lions loped through first-round debate Thursday in the Nebraska Legislature without a scratch.

State senators voted 38-0 to advance Legislative Bill 474 to the second of three rounds of consideration. In addition to allowing the State Department of Motor Vehicles to offer motorists a plate featuring the big cats, the bill introduced by State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha would direct some of the sale proceeds to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for wildlife conservation education.

Although no senators voted against the bill, a couple of them played a little “cat got your tongue” with their normally talkative colleague. Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner pointed out that Chambers often has opposed spending proposals from the Game and Parks Commission during his long career.

“Touché,” Chambers said in reply.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha pointed out that Chambers also once strongly fought bills to create specialty plates for military veterans, Husker sports and other groups. Chambers once argued for preserving the utilitarian purpose of a plate, but specialty plates were adopted anyway.

“So have you seen the light?” Krist asked.

“Reluctantly, but yes,” Chambers said with a smile.

Motorists could get a numeric cougar plate for an extra $5 fee or a message plate for an extra $40. A fiscal analysis estimated the plates could raise about $20,000 in revenue.

Chambers’ admiration for mountain lions extends to his annual campaigns to outlaw the hunting of them in Nebraska. The claws have come out for those debates, given how the animals are loathed by many ranchers and farmers in rural areas.

Chambers will try once again this year to get a mountain lion hunting ban out of the Natural Resources Committee, even though committee members recently killed a similar proposal that had been carried over from 2015.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9587, joe.duggan@owh.com

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