Community Columns

Senate committee runs over state's Gold Star families

A few years back, I made one of those mistakes that I always am pinging on other people about. I nearly ran over a guy who was in the crosswalk and who clearly had the right of way.

He smacked the hood of my politically incorrect, but beautifully red, sport utility vehicle and in a sarcastic voice said that it was OK that I almost ran him down because "The rules don't really mean anything anyway."

While the laws of physics might have made him correct, isn't the reason for having rules to keep people from getting run over?

This past week, the state Senate Transportation Committee refused to hold a hearing on Senate Bill 287. This bill that would have allowed Gold Star families -- those who have lost a family member in combat -- to have recognition on a license plate for their automobiles.

The reason given for the refusal even to hold a hearing on the proposed bill: It might not be constitutional.

The purpose, or at least one of the purposes, for holding a hearing would be to make that determination. Those who are pushing the bill -- such as Merced Republican Jeff Denham -- are pretty sure it is constitutional and meets the state's requirement to be a "recognition" license plate as opposed to a "special" license plate, such as the ones that say "Keep Tahoe Blue" or "Save the Whales." A recognition license plate acknowledges the sacrifice of young men and women from California for the benefit of our nation and our rights -- regardless of how we might feel about any particular conflict.

Fourteen other states have legislation to allow Gold Star families to display the recognition license plates, and there is no logical reason California should not also allow such recognition to honor the sacrifice of fallen service members.

How absurd that our Senate Transportation Committee would not even give this bill a hearing, let alone give it the consideration it is due in recognition of the families of those men and women who have given their all so we can enjoy our freedoms.

The idea that our own Senate Transportation Committee would not even hear this bill smacks of politics. Perhaps the majority of the committee lacks the courage to look somebody in the eye and say, "We don't see the need for our state to officially recognize your sacrifice; now go forth and save a whale."

The state Senate has run us down in the crosswalk. We are a state and a people who value and treasure our fighting men and women from all the conflicts of our nation, and we have vowed never to forget them.

The state Senate needs its hood smacked.

Don't tell me that such recognition might be unconstitutional. Aren't there other constitutional requirements, like producing a balanced budget every year?

Why bother, the rules don't really mean anything anyway.

Bowman is a former submarine weapons specialist who lives in Modesto. E-mail him at