BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho lawmaker is once again seeking to create a specialized license plate depicting a hotly disputed Idaho high school mascot.
The proposed plate would portray the Orofino “Maniac,” a caricature mental health groups call offensive.
Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins attempted to get approval for the license plate last year, but legislation failed to move out of committee.
However, this year, the Idaho Transportation and Defense Committee voted to send the bill to the House floor, but with the recommendation that the word “maniac” be removed from the proposed statute.
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Orofino Councilwoman Jill Woolsey told the panel Thursday that the term maniac would not be on the plate and defended the mascot, calling it positive representation of the community.
“In 2016 our mascot, the maniac, continues to be a symbol of unbridled enthusiasm and a symbol of overcoming odds,” Woolsey said. “It’s about a positive image to win and keep fighting.”
She explained the funds raised from the sale of the specialty license plate are needed for advanced programs in the underfunded high school, including advanced science and math classes.
Opponents testified for over an hour against the measure, saying the mascot’s portrayal only further ostracizes mentally ill people, particularly because Orofino is also the home of a state-run mental health hospital.
Kathie Garrett of Idaho’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said she had a different, less positive interpretation of the word maniac. A Google search revealed a maniac meant a raving or violent person, she said.
“By allowing that to be put in our code, it will signal that Idaho sanctions the use of the word and stigmatizes those that are living with mental illness,” Garrett said.
If the bill passes through the House, it must still get the Senate’s and Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter’s approval to become law.