I recently welcomed Boscobel volunteer fireman and first responder Brent Brown to the state capitol to testify on Senate Bill 360 with me before the Senate Committee on Transportation & Veterans Affairs. This bill waives the special registration license plate fee for fire fighter, rescue squad, emergency medical technician and first responder license plates.
Brent sent me an email last spring to ask if we could consider waiving the fee for special license plates that some emergency medical service members select for their personal vehicles. Unlike other specialty license plates that raise funds and awareness for non-profit organizations and causes, the license plates included in Senate Bill 360 serve a role in public safety. They indicate that help is on the way.
In rural areas of our state, volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians and first responders are often the first, and sometimes only, trained personnel to arrive to emergency scenes. Volunteers are often called into action in their personal vehicles. These license plates help identify first responders to those involved in accidents, police officers or other emergency personnel responding from neighboring fire stations.
Brent told the committee, “with 70 percent of firefighters and EMTs being volunteers, there are many times that we show up on an emergency scene where we’re parking against traffic and parking in odd ways. That plate identifies me going through traffic and at the scene. We are America’s first responders. We’re the ones who are responding to your calls for help.”
Specialty EMS license plates are treated differently than most other plates. The Department of Transportation requires EMS license plates be exchanged for regular license plates when an individual retires from service. Under the current system for these license plates, emergency responders are being charged $15 a year to “rent” their license plate so they can volunteer for their communities. It will only cost the state an estimated $10,500 per year to waive this fee. This is a small cost for public safety and a big thank you to all the emergency personnel who respond to emergencies around our state on a daily basis.
Other specialty license plates do not carry a return requirement. People are free to keep their license plates when they are done using them. For instance you can hang your Packers or Brewers license plate in your garage or in your basement if you choose not to renew the plate the next year.
SB 360 was co-authored by Representative John Spiros, R-Marshfield. Assembly Bill 443 is the companion bill in the Assembly. SB 360 now awaits an executive session vote in the Senate Committee on Transportation & Veterans Affairs. AB 443 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Transportation.
I sincerely appreciate Brent’s willingness to share his idea. I always say that the best legislation comes directly from the people who live, work and volunteer in our communities. This is a good, worthwhile idea. My legislative colleagues have demonstrated strong support for the bill and I am optimistic that it will be advanced swiftly through the legislative process.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.
Republican Howard Marklein, Spring Green, represents the 17th state Senate District.