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Eye On Olympia

Sorry — if you’d only been held prisoner a little bit longer…

Among the bills signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire this week was Senate Bill 6237, a seemingly minor bill to modify eligibility criteria for prisoner-of-war license plates.

The bill, however, was the culmination of a decade-long fight by a Korean War veteran named Dean Gehring and his family.

According to the bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Derek Kilmer, Gehring was captured by enemy troops during a patrol in North Korean territory. He was held in a shack for two days, escaped, and made his way -- starving -- to United Nations forces a week later.

As harrowing an experience as this was, it wasn’t enough to get Gehring a Washington state Prisoner of War License Plate for his car, because the state requires that a prisoner be held at least 29 days to qualify for a POW plate.

said a press release from Kilmer's office earlier this year.

Gehring's family -- he died last year -- has repeatedly called for easing the 29-day rule. This year, Kilmer got the bill passed. It takes effect June 12. Under the new rules, anyone held captive who received a federal prisoner of war medal qualifies for the free license plate.

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