‘It gives the gift of life’: License plate supporting organ donation passes Legislature, heads to governor’s desk

Catcher McCardell (left) and Rep. Paul Ray introduce the proposed 'Donate Life' special license plate at the Union Pacific Depot, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 28, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Cody Harris, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After receiving unanimous approval in both the Utah Senate and Utah House of Representatives, legislation creating a new license plate in support of organ donation is headed to the governor’s desk for a final signature. 

Special License Plate Amendments, designated as HB 272 in the 2021 Legislature, establishes a new special group license plate option for Utah drivers. Revenue from the “Donate Life” license plate will support nonprofit organizations dedicated to connecting, registering and advocating for organ donors and donor families. 

On Friday, in the closing hours of the 2021 general session, the Utah Senate passed HB 272 with a vote of 29-0-0.  

The license plate was inspired by the late Allyson Gamble, a familiar face among legislators. Gamble was a member of the Capitol Preservation Board for 19 years and served as executive director of the board for 11 of those years. In this role, she established a docent program to educate visitors on the building’s heritage, assisted in the creation of history installations and rotating art exhibits and planned hundreds of events celebrating all things Utah. 

Gamble was also a two-time heart transplant recipient who was honored for her resilience and dedication to her work at the Capitol during Gov. Gary Herbert’s 2013 State of the State address. She died of a stroke on Dec. 5, 2020, at age 52. 

The idea for a license plate bolstering organ donation was initially conceived as an Eagle Scout project by Catcher McCardell, a teenager who lives in Gamble’s neighborhood. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, told St. George News that in the weeks before her death, Gamble was excited about the legislation he intended to draft in support of the cause. 

Capitol Preservation Board Executive Director Allyson Gamble, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Senate, St. George News

HB 272 also renames the state’s Organ Donation Contribution Fund to the Allyson Gamble Organ Donation Contribution Fund. The fund was established in 2013 with the stated purposes of promoting and supporting organ donation; assisting in maintaining and operating a statewide organ donation registry; and providing donor awareness education. 

On Feb. 16, the bill passed the Utah House in a unanimous vote of 72-0, with three legislators marked absent or not voting. Ray spoke on the House floor about Gamble’s tireless work at the Capitol despite many health challenges.  

“Allyson and I had a pretty special bond, as I’ve had four open-heart surgeries and we came in here about the same time,” he said. “So we really connected on the issue of the heart transplants that she had had and the organ donation program.” 

Ray told his fellow representatives that in nearly 20 years on Capitol Hill, he has only brought two other special group license plates before the Legislature: the “Honoring Heroes” license plate benefiting families of fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers and the “Utah Jazz” license plate, which supports programs for women and children through an organization affiliated with the NBA. 

“I think this one is probably one of the most important ones I’ve ever run because it gives the gift of life, and you can’t say that about a lot of stuff that we do up here,” he said.  

HB 272 is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 15. The bill is one of three pieces of legislation passed in remembrance of Gamble during the 2021 general session. SB 185, which dedicates committee room 210 in the Senate building to her memory, received unanimous approval in both chambers. On Feb. 25, Gov. Spencer Cox signed a Senate concurrent resolution honoring her life and accomplishments. 

Rep. Paul Ray introduces the proposed ‘Donate Life’ special license plate at the Union Pacific Depot, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 28, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Cody Harris, St. George News

Senate President J. Stuart Adams remembered Gamble as a “dear friend” to many at the Capitol with a deep passion for the historic building and those who occupied it.

“Allyson was known by many as the heart of the Capitol and devoted her life to making sure it was truly The People’s House,” he said. “Her legacy will live on as we rename a Senate committee room the Allyson W. Gamble Committee Room. I cannot think of a better way to preserve her memory in the building she cared so deeply for.”

Utah drivers interested in obtaining a “Donate Life” license plate would make a $25 annual contribution plus the $17 special plate fee and $4 for postage and handling. State law requires that a minimum of 500 completed applications with all fees paid be submitted by interested citizens before the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles may issue a new special license plate. 

According to Intermountain Healthcare, there are currently more than 108,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists across the United States. In Utah, 773 patients are waiting for an organ. Kidneys are in the greatest demand.

While living donation is an option, many people or their surviving loved ones opt to give the gift of life following a tragic loss. One deceased organ donor has the potential to save or drastically improve up to eight lives. 

Utahns can register as an organ and tissue donor when they apply for or renew their driver’s license, or anytime through the Utah Donor Registry website.

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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