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Gazette Premium Content Special Colorado lawmaker plates stay, but changes sought

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Associated Press - Updated: February 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are keeping their special license plates after all. But legislators are working on a fix to ensure they get traffic tickets — the issue that brought the matter up in the first place.

The sponsor of the measure to eliminate the plates told The Associated Press he allowed the bill to miss a key deadline Wednesday, thus spiking the proposal. Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, needed a Senate sponsor to vote the bill out of the House, but he chose to let the bill die because he couldn't persuade fellow lawmakers to get rid of the plates completely.

"I believe that is the right and only right solution. I want to get rid of them," Holbert said.

Another bill to allow lawmakers to keep the plates, but ensure they get photo-radar tickets, is still pending. That bill seeks to connect vehicle-registration numbers to the legislative plates, which is how Holbert's bill was amended to despite his objections.

Both bills are a response to a report last year from KCNC-TV that lawmakers weren't getting photo radar and red-light tickets because the special plates weren't registered to their cars.

Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, said it became clear to lawmakers that Holbert wasn't going to advance his bill. So the alternative bill was proposed.

"And I think rather than just let the bill die and not do anything that we did the responsible thing," said Tyler, who is sponsoring the new bill with lawmakers from both parties.

Tyler said the bill ensures accountability.

"Currently, you can take that plate and put it on one car one day, another car another day, lend it to your brother," he said. "Under today's law, who knows where that plate's gonna be. Under this, it's going to be registered to a legislator so you have complete responsibility."

He said some lawmakers didn't want to get rid of the special plates altogether because it's a way to let constituents know who they are.

Holbert said he's no longer using his legislative plate, and that he might still vote in favor of Tyler's bill. But he worries lawmakers may still get preferential treatment. Anecdotally, he said he's heard of lawmakers not getting parking or speeding tickets because of the plates.

"That kind of thing I believe is only solved if we use a plate that's just like everybody else's," he said.

Tyler countered that he has gotten parking tickets in Denver, and that he's heard from other lawmakers that they've been ticketed also. In some cases, law enforcement isn't even familiar with the legislative plates, he said.

"I have also been stopped in Denver and the officer said, 'Well, sir, excuse me, I stopped you because I didn't understand what that plate was,' " he said.

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