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Legislature avoids profiling pitfall

The Legislature often does special things for veterans to show respect and thanks for their service, whether it's a break on hunting licenses or whatever, but every now and again, the Legislature doesn't do something for them that is even better.

Early in this session, a bill surfaced that would let veterans have put on their drivers' licenses a hologram -- not visible to the naked eye -- notation they were veterans.

Sorta cool, we guess, and it was a voluntary deal that if for some reason you wanted a near-invisible notation on your DL that you were a veteran, well, you could get it.

Luckily, that idea was scrapped.

While it's probably worth mentioning that putting that secret designation on a driver's license or non-driver's license state-issued identification card would cost the state about $95,000 in computer programming costs, that secret notation was killed for a better reason -- one not often discussed.

The key was what happens when law enforcement has reason to ask a person to show a driver's license.

With the card-reading gear in most cop cars, that veteran notation would be visible to the law enforcement officers after they returned to their vehicle with the veteran's driver's license in hand to run whatever checks they run.

The veteran's notation: Does it become a reason for an officer to offer a friendly "thank you for your service" or does the notation tell a cop that the person he/she has stopped might have been in an active war zone and might possibly be traumatized by interaction with law enforcement?

That notation changes things when it's learned in a situation where the driver faces some sort of sanction from law enforcement.

It's not quite profiling of the potential reaction to law enforcement by drivers based on their exposure to violence in a war zone, but it would have been close.

That's a good reason that the bill is now history, stricken from the debate calendar. The voluntary decision by veterans that their basic piece of identification -- their driver's license or nondriver's identification card -- notes their service shouldn't be the reason that they are treated any differently than, say, an organ donor, who also has that noted on his/her license.

No, there wasn't any fuss about it, just a ruling from the speaker of the House that a bill hadn't been acted upon by the deadline, and was stricken from the calendar -- essentially killed.

Every now and again, something right happens -- not easily explained, not anything that people want to discuss openly -- potentially profiling veterans as possibly dangerous. But what could have been a mistake was avoided.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.