By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
A bill honoring Colorado’s military while also boosting revenue for highways passed a legislative committee this week.
House Bill 1209, sponsored by Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, would allow active duty or retired military personnel the option to purchase a special drivers license that would identify them as a member of the United States Armed Forces. Funds generated would go towards Colorado’s roads and bridges.
The bill passed the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 10-1 vote Thursday.
“We have truly billions of dollars of needs for road and bridge repair,” said Balmer. “It seems like a win-win both for military personnel and for highways in the state.”
Balmer’s proposal would raise about $243,000 annually for the highway department. The driver’s license would display a military branch symbol for the Army, United States Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy or Cost Guard. This voluntary program will cost $15.
“This is the only bill that raises highway funds this year,” Balmer said. “Our roads and bridges have critical repair needs that this bill will address.”
Applicants would be required to present a current valid military identification document, DD-214, or another approved document accepted by the United States Department of Defense to prove they are an active duty service member or military veteran.
Balmer said his idea for this legislation came from other states that put designations on driver’s licenses for things like cancer awareness or other causes. Balmer, who is a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve and served in deployments to Afghanistan and Bosnia, said honoring the military was the logical place to start. He said that he does not object to allowing other groups or causes to designate their licenses as well in the future.
There are approximately 425,000 service members and veterans in Colorado —135,000 of them registered military license plates and 16,200 services members are expected to sign up for the insignia.
“We want this to really take off,” said Balmer. “Hopefully we get the report back in a few years and its raised $2 million and not $243,000.”
Balmer said he has heard critics call his bill a ‘get out of jail free card.’ Balmer and Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, Air force Reserves, said it is already common practice for military personnel to hand an officer their military ID and license anyway. Balmer said an officer would know if someone was in the military even without this insignia.
The Colorado Contractor’s Association testified in support of the bill.
The bill heads to the House Finance Committee. Balmer said he is planning to ask Senate President Brandon Shaffer to carry the bill in the senate.
Democratic Reps. Nancy Todd, Ed Casso, Joe Miklosi, Lois Court, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, and Beth McCann and Republican Reps. Carole Murray, Brian DelGrosso, B.J. Nikkel and Mark Waller voted for the bill. Democrat Jeanne Labuda voted against it.