Commentary: Prius owner wants to keep living life in the fast lane

John Burton has left fingerprints everywhere in the Capitol. Maybe, they're his tread marks.

The California Democratic Party chairman and former state Senate leader loves his old blue Prius. It gets 45 miles to a gallon on the ride from his home in San Francisco to Sacramento.

More to the point, his Prius, like those driven by many of his friends and donors, has a yellow sticker, the coveted decal issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles that permits him to cruise in carpool lanes while the rest of us stop, go and get stuck in traffic.

As the yellow sticker owners are finding, nothing lasts forever. The DMV has sent notices to 85,000 hybrid owners, vintage 2004-06, announcing that the yellow sticker program is headed for the scrap heap, due to expire July 1.

Not one to give up easily, Burton has turned to legislative allies, hoping they will extend the program for a few more months.

That'd give him and the 85,000 other hybrid owners time to buy the next generation of plug-in hybrids soon to be on the market. Those cars likely will qualify for California's new "green" sticker program, allowing owners to continue using high occupancy vehicle lanes.

"He is not in begging mode yet," said Sen. Fran Pavley, the Santa Monica Democrat who carried the 2004 legislation authorizing hybrids, primarily Priuses, or as the cognoscenti call them, Prii, to drive in high occupancy vehicle lanes.

California issued yellow stickers for hybrids. It long has given white stickers so zero emission vehicles can use carpool lanes. Soon, there will be green stickers for plug-in hybrids.

One lobbyist calls it incentives gone wild. Encouraged by creative lobbyists, policymakers urge us to go green, spend money, and jump-start environmentally correct technology.

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