LINCOLN — State senators worked Monday to make sure that special Nebraska license plates for military reservists go only to those who earn the honor.

Lawmakers debated a bill that would allow members of military reserves to obtain license plates designed by the Department of Motor Vehicles to honor each reserve branch of the U.S. armed forces. Currently, honor plates are available to active duty members or veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Most of the projected revenue raised by sales of the plates would go to help fund the operations of state veterans cemeteries.

During Monday’s debate senators said they support the concept of allowing military reservists to obtain honor plates. Several, however, objected to language that would allow the plates to be displayed on vehicles registered to a trust that includes the reserve member’s name.

State Sen. Dan Watermeier, sponsor of Legislative Bill 45, said his intent was to allow reservists who own vehicles through a legal trust to be able to obtain the plates just as individuals can. He said a similar provision exists in state law for those who obtain handicapped license plates.

“There’s nothing in the language that should prevent this bill from moving forward,” Watermeier said.

But Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said the way he read the bill, other members of a reservist’s trust also could be issued a plate. That could diminish the value of the plates, he said.

“Anyone who protested the war in Vietnam can have a plate if they have a person in family who served,” Schumacher said.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said he agreed with Schumacher’s point that eligibility for the plates needs to be restricted to qualifying individuals.

Sen. John McCollister of Omaha offered an amendment to include military honor plates for officers of the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Officers who serve in that capacity wear the same uniform as the Navy, with special insignia, and can be activated to serve by the Defense Department.

Watermeier said he welcomed the McCollister amendment and otherwise said he is willing to work out any issues with the bill so it can advance.

Senators adjourned for the day before voting on the McCollister amendment.

joe.duggan@owh.com, 402-473-9587

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