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Spin Control: Lawmakers offer plan to satisfy feds on driver’s license fight

This is an image of the Washington State Enhanced Driver License Courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Licensing (COURTESY WA DEPT OF LICENSING / COURTESY WA DEPT OF LICENSING)
This is an image of the Washington State Enhanced Driver License Courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Licensing (COURTESY WA DEPT OF LICENSING / COURTESY WA DEPT OF LICENSING)

Lawmakers at the top of the transportation policy pyramid have what they think is a solution to Washington’s long, and likely losing, battle over its driver’s license system.

The feds say the state’s current standard licenses don’t meet the requirements of federal law, which means that eventually a Washington resident would need something else to get on a plane or into many U.S. government facilities where someone checks IDs.

A standard Washington license or identification card doesn’t say whether you are in the country legally, so it doesn’t pass muster with the REAL ID law. The state has an enhanced driver’s license that meets those requirements, but to get one, a person must show up at a state licensing office with proof of citizenship, identity and residence. And shell out more money. A standard driver’s license costs $54 for six years, but an enhanced license, which has certain technology that allows it to be scanned for extra security, is $108 for six years.

The plan by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, and House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, is to change the standard license so it says it’s not valid ID for federal purposes and to lower the fee slightly for the enhanced license so it would be $90 for six years.

The former likely would make the feds happy. The latter might not satisfy some of the critics who have been fighting a change under the theory that people who want something to satisfy the feds or the airlines can buy a passport. At $110, a passport is cheaper in the long run than the current enhanced license because of its longevity. It’s good for 10 years, which makes it cheaper than even the new proposal on a per-year basis. The rest of the state shouldn’t have to revise its system to satisfy them, critics say.

The Legislature has been trying without much luck to resolve this problem for years. It’s becoming less of an academic exercise, though, because in early 2018, regular Washington driver’s licenses aren’t going to be accepted for folks getting on a plane, and we all know that however much advance notice people get, someone’s going to be shocked when they show up at Spokane International and are told they can’t get on their flight.

Matching bills by King and Clibborn were pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session, which is basically the state’s last chance to head off that problem.

Also in the hopper

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, pre-filed a proposal last week that may delight some manufacturers and other businesses, but seems tailor-made to set civil libertarians on edge.

His proposed Preventing Economic Disruption Act calls for extra jail time for any protest or demonstration that causes “economic harm by impeding economic activities.”

It would cover any demonstration to influence a government policy that delays trains, planes, automobiles – and just about anything else that carries cargo – or interferes with a pipeline, oil terminal or power plant.

So it would seem to apply to a protest similar to the one against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but not necessarily one like the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, since there was no commercial activity being blocked there.

Ericksen heads the Energy Committee, so the bill would get a hearing if it’s assigned there. Its longer-term prospects are more uncertain.

Taking advantage

of the cold

While supporters and opponents of President-elect Donald Trump argue whether his Cabinet picks show he’s making good on a promise to “drain the swamp,” state officials are actually draining a former swamp here in Olympia.

The swamp, or estuary if we’re being hoity-toity, was below the Capitol campus until the river that ran through it was dammed to create Capitol Lake. But now the lake is beset by snails – foreign snails from New Zealand, no less – so state officials are drawing the lake down as low as possible in the cold weather to freeze out as many as possible of the pesky little mollusks from Down Under.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Next Saturday, the folks who spend 364 days of the year making sure no foreign government sneaks anything over the North Pole turn their attention to tracking the one example of “incoming” that everyone welcomes.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command will once again have its official Santa tracker and countdown clock available on Christmas Eve. It’s very handy for parents who can only take being asked “when will Santa be here” so many times.

Spin Control will have the tracker embedded on the website Dec. 24 because there’s not much political news on Christmas Eve, and even if there is, most folks probably don’t want to read it.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at spincontrol.

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