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The DMV blue plate special -- courtesy of Sacramento

April 22, 2009 |  9:51 am

Here's another reason to read the papers in the morning: There's almost always something guaranteed to anger you so much that you get instantly revved up. Think of all the money this saves on Starbucks caffeine -- a $3 cup of coffee versus a newspaper that costs a fraction of that.

Now it's a story about two bills that passed an Assembly committee with no discussion, very little testimony and no ''no'' votes.

The bills would expand the protections of a license-plate program that keeps secret the personal information of thousands of government officials, from museum guards and zoo veterinarians and code enforcers to, surprise, the legislators themselves.

According to the Orange County Register, which investigated this last year and found that it conceals home addresses in DMV records, this idea originated about 30 years ago as a way of protecting law enforcement officials from ill-intentioned people trying to hunt them down. It's a very sound idea.

But this special protection was pretty much obviated by a more recent law drafted after a stalker used DMV records to find and kill actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989. Now everyone's DMV records are pretty much walled off from public access.

So why would we need to have -- why would we need to expand -- a law protecting government employees' information, now that it's already protected by the same state law that protects us all? Unless, as the Register suggests, the real purpose is to signal to law enforcement, with the wink and nod of a computer code and special license plates, that the driver may be ''one of us'' and deserves a break.

I'd even suggest that, much as museum guards and zoo veterinarians might enjoy this perk, knowingly or not, and some employees in sensitive jobs would have needed protection had the DMV not already provided it, that it was perhaps legislators and other state officials who put hundreds of thousands of state employees into this category in order to give themselves the protective camouflage of numbers. Pass a law protecting just that small, select group, and voters catch on fast. Pass a law claiming to protect threatened multitudes of public employees, and you can conceal yourself in the crowd.

The state is billions of dollars in the hole. We don't need more exemptions from traffic tickets. We need the money.

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