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Measure seeking personalized vehicle plates for volunteer responders approved for North Dakota ballot

Volunteer firefighters gather for a photo at the Larimore Volunteer Fire Dept. North Dakota voters will decide in November on a license-plate program for volunteer emergency responders. Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — A retired farmer from Max, N.D., hopes voters will send a "thank-you note" to volunteer emergency responders by passing his ballot measure allowing them to apply for red personalized vehicle plates.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Monday, Aug. 13, that the effort led by Norval Semchenko garnered 15,039 valid signatures, about 1,600 more than needed to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The measure would amend state law to require the state Department of Transportation director to issue red personalized plates to volunteer emergency responders who apply for them. The plates would come at no cost to the volunteers, including firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

The plates would serve as an entrance pass to all North Dakota state parks. The DOT director would develop qualifications and verification procedures for the plates with the help of volunteer organizations.

The first three digits of the plate would be the last three digits of the zip code where the volunteer's department is located. The plate's last three characters would be chosen by the volunteer.

Semchenko said the measure was prompted by his appreciation for the volunteers, although he has never been one himself. He said he has pitched the idea to supportive legislators who hesitated to push the issue while the state grappled with tight budgets.

"The quality of their work, and the dedication and endurance of these people is just inspiring," Semchenko said. "It's such a high-value service that they perform for us."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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