436 new state laws in effect today

Adam Wilson
The Olympian

July 22, 2007

Olympia, WA - If you get a traffic ticket, it's going to be more expensive. If you've been shopping for an alligator, forget about it.

New laws take effect today - 436 of them. They are a mind-boggling array of new programs, studies and legal tweaks, as well as rights given and taken away.

Five-hundred and twenty-two laws are being enacted this year, the highest number in decades, possibly in state history. Unless lawmakers say otherwise, they take effect today, 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

Many take effect immediately. Buying an "exotic" animal or owning a tool used in car theft is illegal as of today.

Other laws must wait for the workweek. A new domestic-partnership registry is opening, which people may join when the Secretary of State's Office opens at 8 a.m. Monday.

The Department of Social and Health Services will add 7,500 children, most of them immigrants, to state health care programs.

The Legislature increased the amount that parents can earn and still qualify for state-sponsored insurance.

The change is expected to add 45,000 children over two years, but that number could be larger. In many cases, these children have younger siblings born since their parents came to the United States.

Those younger children are citizens and qualify for coverage; their older, non- citizen siblings previously would have had to wait for five years before becoming eligible for Medicaid.

"We know that the kids will be eligible, so they'll be added Monday," DSHS spokesman Jim Stevenson said. "All we have to do is throw the switch."

Many other laws that take effect today will take time to show results, such as studies launched on climate-changing gases and whether home inspectors should be licensed. Some won't demand anything for a year, such as a requirement for hospitals to report how many patients pick up infections during treatment.

An added $10 fee to traffic citations begins today, which will be used to fund anti-car-theft programs statewide.

The fee is part of a large package of reforms that includes stiffer penalties for auto theft, faster assessments of juvenile cases and the new misdemeanor crime of possession of a tool used in auto theft.

"We took what worked, put it in this bill, so I would be very surprised if this doesn't have a positive effect on auto theft in Washington," said Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. "I think it"s going to take us two or three years " before we start seeing the numbers going in the right direction."

The 147 elected state legislators passed 522 bills, one shy of the record 523 set in 2005.

But Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed seven bills two years ago and none this year, which means this year has the most new laws since at least since 1976, the last year for which information was immediately available.



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