Spin Control

FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012, 6:29 P.M.

Of planes and automobiles

OLYMPIA – Jet planes may someday fly on fuel made Eastern Washington grain, cars will sport license plates celebrating 4-H and rhododendrons and drivers licenses will last longer but be more expensive under bills signed Friday.

A $100 fee for electric cars, an easier alternative to tire chains and a $938 million spending plan for state highways, bridges and ferries also were signed into law.

To read more about the transportation bills signed Friday, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Among legislation closely followed by Spokane businesses was an aviation biofuels plan that allows bonds from the state’s Housing Finance Commission to be sold to help build facilities to turn agricultural products into jet fuel. It "cultivates" a regional supply chain for the fuels and helps create jobs in Spokane and around the state, Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, one of the sponsors said.

Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane and another sponsor, said the state is a leader in biofuel research, has plenty of grain and has airlines interested in using the fuel. The bill will give the state a chance to support a biofuels refinery, he said.

In other new laws:

* The state added $938 million to its transportation projects list, raising the total to be spent through mid 2013 to $10 billion. The transportation budget has money for the North Spokane Corridor and widening of I-90 in the Spokane Valley.

* The state will develop facial recognition systems to check whether a driver’s license applicant has obtained a license under another name. Starting in July 2013, licenses will be good for six years, rather than the current five, but the price will jump from $25 to $54 for a standard operator’s license. State ID cards for non-drivers will rise from $20 to $54, and commercial drivers’ licenses from $61 to $102.

* Specialty plates with help raise money for 4-H and for preservation of native flowers and certain emblems that denote military service awards will be allowed on plates.

* Fees for car dealers, drivers records and license plates went up, and a new fee of $100 for electric vehicles take effect on Oct. 1. Supporters said the fee for electric cars is to make them help pay for road construction and maintenance that other vehicles support through gasoline taxes.

* An alternative traction device, known as a tire sock, will be legal for drivers to use in the snow. They’re easier to install than tire chains, and aren’t as abrasive to the roads.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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