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Colorado lawmakers consider bill to create special license plate celebrating Chicano heritage

State lawmakers consider bill to create special license plate celebrating Chicano-Chicana heritage
State lawmakers consider bill to create special license plate celebrating Chicano-Chicana heritage 03:00

A proposed bill in Colorado would allow drivers in the Centennial state to celebrate their Chicano/Chicana heritage, while also benefiting nonprofits that support youth in communities of color. Latinos make up more than 22% of the state's population.

If the bill passes, it would create a special license plate for drivers. The license plate would feature art from a group of Colorado artists. Drivers can obtain the plates by paying two one-time $25 fees. One of the fees is credited to the highway users tax fund and the other to the licensing services cash fund.  

State Rep. Tim Hernandez and Sen. Julie Gonzales are hoping to introduce the bill on Thursday, Feb. 29.

The state requires signatures for new license plates to measure the public's interest. Organizers gathered more than 3,000 signatures through an online petition in a matter of days.

Now this controversial bill that has been talked about for nearly a decade is being presented again in the state Capitol.

State lawmakers are considering a bill to create a special license plate celebrating Chicano heritage.  CBS

The license plate would essentially create a pathway to fund and expand youth leadership programs, youth violence prevention programs, and ethnic studies programs, facilitate access to higher education and increase the cultural and economic well-being of the Chicano/Chicana community in Colorado.

"Anybody who identifies in both building power and in our history and future that is a Chicano, and I am really excited to be carrying this bill," said Gonzales.

Hernandez believes this license plate is essential, especially for those who identify as Chicano/Chicana.

"It is important because our community has been waiting too long for it, we've been part of the history since the founding of Colorado and we've been part of the social, political and cultural scenes of Colorado," said Hernandez.

In the last eight years, a similar bill was introduced- twice. Once in 2016 and in 2018 by former state Rep. Joseph Salazar. Both times, it failed.

"License plate bills are a pretty simple bill at the Capitol," said Salazar.

"By large, they just pass… so why not pass it? It didn't pass because the rhetoric from the Republican party then was pretty fierce against our communities," said Salazar.

Opponents of the bill believe that having a Chicano/Chicana plate could be a form of racism toward other communities. However, Salazar argues license plates like the "Italian American heritage" were passed with no pushback.

"There was no explanation as to why they killed the bill, while they were passing other license plate bills," said Salazar.

The proposed bill would essentially help nonprofits like "El Movimiento Sigue" which means the movement continues, a Pueblo nonprofit that works to promote youth leadership and cultural pride.

Denise Torrez is with the nonprofit and says she's been getting a mix of backlash and support from residents across the state.

"You should always be proud of your ancestors and where you came from and your heritage and for us that's what it symbolizes," said Torrez.

Organizers have surpassed the minimum number of signatures needed to support this new plate, but they are still accepting more signatures and signs of support.

The Colorado DMV currently lists more than 50 special license plates on its website from ALS to American Indian Scholars and Stegosaurus license plates.

More information on the petition can be found here.

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